FF92 - The Sun

Intro by Adam Pranica

Mongol was the last war film we watched that was directed by a Russian, but with an Asian cast speaking in Asian language. Curiously it is not the only example of that kind of film. Take today's as another example! Alexander Sokurov is a Russian director with a particular interest in powerful men and today's film is about two such men.

Our protagonist, such as he is, is the Emperor, now known as Hirohito, a man who renounced his godhood at the end of World War II as Japan surrendered to the United States. Sokurov is explicitly disinterested with the specificity of historical fact and much more focused on presenting a real man in whom we can imagine the actual internal struggle of having lived through a World War II as the infallible deity emperor of a now defeated empire.

Hirohito is small and lives a life that is stunningly quotidian. We open on him receiving his breakfast from his majordomo and you almost don't realize that he is supposed to be the emperor. He meets with his military brass who promise to continue the fight, but the atom bombs have already fallen on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war is coming to an end and everybody knows it.

This is a film that spends almost all of its time in the ivory tower, so when Hirohito is picked up by American GIs to go to meet with Douglas MacArthur it is at first shocking to see them walking casually through the extreme formality of the palace grounds, and further shocking to see the burning wasteland of Tokyo that they drive through to attend the meeting. Downfall is Hitler's bunker movie and The Sun as Hirohito’s.

Japan's participation in World War II led to massive amounts of suffering all over East Asia and the Pacific Islands, not to mention within Japan, but this head of state is not a raving mad man. He is disconnected from reality and seemingly kept oblivious to the breadth and scope of the havoc of the war by servants and generals who consider him to be a deity who needs to be kept above the fray and separated from the vagaries of human conflict.

This is a really weird art film, and one that is very distinct from the other films we watch for the show. It depicts no combat and very little violence, but it is most definitely a war movie. It digs deeply into the psyche of this strange man who has a lot of responsibility for what Japan did in World War II. If you don't return your debts little by little, you will risk losing everything later. Today on Friendly Fire: The Sun

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