February’s Akira Kurosawa film club title is Masaki Kobayashi‘s epic film trilogy The Human Condition (人間の條件, Ningen no jōken), released between 1959 and 1961. The almost 10 hour long work follows the story of Kaji (Tatsuya Nakadai), a Japanese pacifist with socialist leanings, as he navigates through World War II under the oppressive conditions imposed by the fascist totalitarian state. The individual films are titled No Greater Love, Road to Eternity and A Soldier’s Prayer.
For a proper introduction to the films, I refer you to Philip Kemp’s essay, which is part of the Criterion set and can also be read online. It gives a good overview of the films’ background and spells out the trilogy’s themes and topics without going too deeply into the storyline.
Thematically, we have paired The Human Condition with January’s film club title Red Beard, and it would be interesting to hear how you think Kobayashi’s epic may have influenced or inspired Kurosawa.
The Human Condition is available as a Criterion (Region 1) DVD.
Next month, we will not be returning to a Kurosawa directed film but will start our short detour through Kurosawa’s Hollywood adventure, watching Runaway Train (Konchalovsky, 1985) in March and Tora! Tora! Tora! (Fleischer-Fukasaku-Masuda 1970) in April. For background reading on these films, I would highly recommend Hiroshi Tasogawa‘s excellent book on the subject, All the Emperor’s Men. It is one of the best Akira Kurosawa books out there.
We return to our regular programming in May with Dodesukaden. Information about the availability of all of these films, as well as the full Kurosawa film club schedule can be found here.