Fires on the Plain: Novel and Movie Essay

Fires on the Plain: Novel and Movie Essay

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Participants in war witness the capacity of humanity and, the survivors, are burdened with the inner struggles of wartime memories. Ooka Shohei’s 1951 major anti-war novel, Fires on the Plain, portrays the degradation of the surviving Japanese forces in the Philippines in the last year of Pacific War. Ichikawa Kon adapted the anti-war novel for film in 1959 and was consistent with the protagonist, Private Tamura, encounters while exploring the struggles between duty to the nation and duty to the self. However, the film diverges significantly from the novel through alterations in the Christian sub-plot, acts of cannibalism, and narrative style in portraying Private Tamura as a victim of war from originally depicted as burdened with guilt. The killing of Nagamatsu, by Private Tamura, illustrates the significance of the alteration on the characterization of the protagonist. The difference enables the film to sharpen the message that war is brutal and inhuman represented by the Japanese solders’ struggles for survival. The novel eludes that there is no relief from all the wartime memories and the burdens of guilt. Different social and historical contexts influence the production of the novel and the film in presenting the consequences of war from different standpoint.
Ooka Shohei is a veteran from the Pacific War, who earned high acclaim in the literary genre of war and is among one of the many influential postwar Japanese writers. Ooka Shohei fictionalized his war experiences and used the battle for Leyte Island in the Philippines, in 1944, as a vehicle in the novel, Fires on the Plain. The battle for Leyte Island was an important step towards Philippines’ liberation from Japanese occupation. Japanese defeat in the Phili...

... middle of paper ...

...a seeks to preserve his humanity by returning to a civil society after witnessing the inhuman consequences of war only by acceptance from the Filipinos.

Works Cited

Fires On the Plain. Dir. Ichikawa Kon. Perf. Funakoshi Eiji. 1959.
Hauser, William B. "Fires on the Plain: The Human Cost of the Pacific War ." Nolletti, Arthur. Reframing Japanese Cinema. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992. 193-209.
lofgren, Erik. "Christianity Excised: Ichikawa Kon's Fires on the Plain." Japanese Studies (2003): 265-275.
Lofgren, Erik. "Ideological Transformation; reading Cannibalism in Fires on the Plain." Japan Furum (2003): 401-421.
Ooka, Shohei and Morris Ivan. Fires on the Plain. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1957.
Stahl, David C. "The burdens of survival: Õoka Shõhei's writings on the Pacific War." United States: University of Hawii Press, 2003. 96-145.

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