The Human Condition Trilogy

The Human Condition is Masaki Kobayashi’s harrowing ten-hour trilogy about a Japanese pacifist in WWII.

The films are beautiful, heartbreaking, and a true testament to the human spirit.

No Greater Love

We meet Kaji, our protagonist, as he contemplates the upcoming war. He gets married to his sweetheart Michiko despite his worry for the future. His luck seems to change when he gets exempted from the draft and gets a job managing a labor camp in Japanese occupied Manchuria.

The labor camp is a very interesting setting both narratively and visually. The rolling hills of dirt are not the epic location you think of when of WWII. However, after watching the film, I cannot help, but think of them whenever I imagine the Eastern Front.

At the camp, it is very clear that they are under staffed and overworked. The Manchu workers themselves are worked to death and there is every incentive to do just that. Kaji insists are treating the workers like human beings, but his superiors blow him off.

But, things aren’t that bad until the POWs arrive.

 

The Military Police orders that the POWS be kept behind an electric fence. Things slowly deteriorate and some of the POW are accused of crimes they didn’t commit. Kaji tries to strand up for them, but they are still executed.

Kaji is taken to prison, interrogated, tortured, and then drafted into the military.

Road to Eternity

Kaji fares well in the military. He is a model solider, but is under constant suspicion because of his past.

This film was the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. The Private Pyle subplot was completely lifted from Road to Eternity and many shots look very similar.

After training, Kaji gets sent out to the front and combat deeply changes him. After the vast majority of his unit is wiped out in his first battle he is desperate to make it back to his wife.

A Soldier’s Prayer

Kaji and two other soldiers make the arduous journey back towards friendly territory. Along the way they see what the war has done to the land.

This is definitely the most heartbreaking of the three. Eventually, Kaji is captured by the Soviets and works at a labor camp in a situation that mirrors the first film. The situation is even worse than when they were wandering in the middle of nowhere.

Kaji tries to advocate for himself and his people with the Soviets, but it is no use. Eventually he escapes and vanishes in the snow.

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I intentionally glossed over some major points in the film. You should definitely check it out! These are some of the most important films ever made and are (for at least now) my favorite films.

The Human Condition shows us the evil of war and ideology, but also gives us hope for a better future.

The trilogy is available to watch (in some form) on Filmstruck, Amazon, and YouTube.

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Barry Lyndon

I just arrived home after seeing Kubrick’s period masterpiece, Barry Lyndon. It was my second time viewing the film and I enjoyed it even more re-watching it on the silver screen. The presentation of the film, the audience (there were Barry Lyndon cosplayers), and the interesting discussion after the film are the reasons why the Midtown Art Cinema is my favorite theater.

Barry Lyndon is the story of the misadventures of Redmond Barry. It is a tale of adventure, fortune, fate, and tragedy based on the novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray 1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Luck_of_Barry_Lyndon . The film was praised technically upon release, receiving an Academy Award for Cinematography, Costume Design, and Art Direction 2)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072684/awards, but was a commercial failure and dismissed by many critics.

Time has been very kind to Barry Lyndon, with many people considering it to be Kubrick’s best film. While it is not my personal favorite, I really appreciate and enjoy the film. The visuals are awe inspiring, the story is darkly enchanting, and it has everything you would want in an historical epic.

This was the first Kubrick film I have seen in a theater and it was absolutely magnificent! If you can see this film on the big screen, do not hesitate to buy a ticket! They played a digitally remastered version of the film and it looked wonderful. An audience member who had been to the film’s original release in 1975 remarked that, “Barry Lyndon has never looked better!”

I would recommend this film to anyone that wants to learn about shot composition. Visually this film is perfect. Kubrick’s vision for the film was heavily inspired by the paintings of William Hogarth 3)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hogarth, a contemporary of Thackeray. Not only is the cinematography in Barry Lyndon beautiful, but it tells the story well. Each frame tells its own story.

Go see Barry Lyndon!

barry lyndon

References   [ + ]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Luck_of_Barry_Lyndon 
2. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072684/awards
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hogarth