Fires on the Plain

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Year Released: 1959
Rating: 3.5

Harrowing and intense companion piece to Ichikawa's The Burmese Harp which, like that film, speaks of the horrors of war. A young Japanese soldier in the Philippines - who has tuberculosis - wanders from location to location, just trying to find enough to eat to stay alive - like the famous Beckett line, he can't go on, but he goes on. True, it's depressing, but so is combat and struggling to survive in the most insane of conditions (feeding on grass, stealing salt, trading tobacco for yams, eating human flesh) - there's no gloss, and there's little chance for redemption, only survival. The Christian subtext of this - allegedly toned down from the source novel - also goes quite nicely with the Buddhist subtext in The Burmese Harp.