Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fires on the Plain (2014) Film Comment Selects 2015

Shin'ya Tsukamoto's FIRES ON THE PLAIN is a deeply disturbing film. I can not imagine how the film plays on the small screen, but on a big theater screen the film is a punch in the face.

Not so much a remake of the 1959 film that played a couple weeks back at the New York Jewish Film Festival (my review can be found here) the film is more a revisit of the source novel.

The plot of the film has director Shin'ya Tsukamoto playing a soldier in the last days of the Second World War in the Pacific. The cause is all but lost, there is almost no food, no ammunition and absolutely no hope. After a surreal series of trips to and from the hospital our hero is told that if he and his fellow soldiers can get to a certain place they can catch a boat home. Of course it's not that easy and things go from horribly wrong to horribly worse.

More realistic then the first film, this is a graphic depiction of war as hell. All of the allegory of the earlier film is gone taking with it the all of the black humor that served as a release in the earlier film, All that's left here is blackness, pain and suffering and misery. Heads explode, limbs are shot off and blood flows. This is war at its most realistic. Your stomach will turn.

At the same time the film is very surreal The whole situation is like being trapped in a Kafka war novel. Additionally we see things from Tsukamoto's point of view so we see things tinged by his mental state which is sketchy at best. The result is a dislocation and a feeling of not being quite right that puts you off balance. You won't want to be there, not because its bad, rather because its all just fucked up.

By the end of the film I just wanted to go home. I couldn't handle anything else- which was bad since I had another screening to go to at Film Comment Selects-.but I bailed and went home. (I saw this with Mondocurry and he too was of the same mind set you simply can't follow it except with a comedy to clear the palette- maybe)

I am deeply bothered by this film.

To be honest I can't compare this film to the earlier version because while they are basically the same film the takes are completely different. What you have is two artists looking at the same "sunset" and interpreting it in their own way. Both are valid.(Frankly all remakes should be like this)

At the start of the screening Gavin Smith from FIlm Comment said the film has no US distributor. Having seen the film I'm not surprised. Its cinematic bullet to the chest and not something most people are going to want to see. Where the original version has 55 or so years of distance this film has none. it's modern and bloody and echoes way too much of the world. This is not a film people will flock to despite being a great film.

If you can see this, especially on the big screen, do make the effort to do so.
Bodies pile up

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