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The Human Condition Part III: A Soldier’s Prayer (Ningen no joken)


Dir. Masaki Kobayashi. 1961, 190 mins. 35mm. With Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Tamao Nakamura, Chishu Ryu, Taketoshi Naito, Kyoko Kishida. The final chapter of Kobayashi’s anti-war cri de coeur achieves a bleakness close to grandeur. Here Kaji (Nakadai), first introduced in a position of complacent authority and moral self-assurance, has been reduced to abjection and desolation, wandering a devastated landscape and fighting for his very survival. Caught between vengeance-minded Chinese partisans and the Japanese army ready to shoot their own soldiers for desertion, socialist utopian Kaji puts his hopes in surrendering to the Russian Red Army, only to find them no more humane than the rest. Overcome with trauma, Nakadai’s expressive performance makes this a harrowing, majestic finale.

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