Saturday, 28 December 2013
Human Condition II: The Road to Eternity 
Road to Eternity, the second chapter in Kobayashi’s powerful trilogy, began where No Greater Love had left off, and was a disconsolate and gut-wrenching portrayal of the dehumanizing nature of the military which, with its harsh emphasis on discipline, regimentation, subordination and masculinity, stands in opposition to freedom of opinion and expression. Kaji (Tatsuya Nakadai), upon been conscripted in the army, is placed under suspicion for his Leftist sympathies. And, combined with his hardworking nature, refusal to kowtow to unfair authority, and instinctive protests against injustice, he becomes a polarizing figure, particularly among veterans who love venting their sadistic impulses on the recruits. When, upon being made a PFC, he tries segregating seniors from juniors, the hostility couldn’t more direct. Though it focused more on the brutal boot camp, the final third took us right into a warzone where, bereft of enough fortifications, experience, artillery and ammunition, the Japanese regiment faces massacre at the hands of the impregnable Soviet tanks. The film’s two most haunting moments were – the devastating moment where he expresses his wish to imprint in his mind the image of his wife while she’s in the naked, and the tragic death of a bespectacled fellow-recruit (Kunie Tanaka) incessantly harangued for being a weakling; his fleeting friendship with a sweet-looking nurse, which is nipped in its bud, added melancholic underpinnings to this somber drama. The stark, expressionistic B/W cinematography was astounding – the stunning first shot of a guard’s figure against the snowy night made the monochromatic aesthetics immediately clear – and so was the operatic soundtrack which reinforced the tonal shift from the previous film and the protagonist’s reluctant journey from pacifism to aggression.
Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Genre: War Drama/Political Drama