• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 4:14am

Filmmaker says Japan needs reminders of war's horrors

Yamada, 82 said the picture, his latest release in 60 years of filmmaking and based on a best-selling novel by Kyoko Nakajima, aimed to explain the devastating impact of World War II to younger audiences

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 10:10am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 February, 2014, 10:10am

Veteran Japanese director Yoji Yamada told the Berlin film festival on Friday he made his new 1940s drama “The Little House” for a generation of compatriots who seem oblivious to the horrors of war.

Yamada, 82 said the picture, his latest release in 60 years of filmmaking and based on a best-selling novel by Kyoko Nakajima, aimed to explain the devastating impact of World War II to younger audiences.

“People from that era are slowly but surely all dying - the last people who really know what it was like during wartime,” he said through an interpreter.

“The sense that the war was a catastrophe, that it was dreadful, that it was cruel, that it was a tragedy - the sense that you have to learn from that and never repeat that again.”

The director said the themes were bitterly relevant at a time of heightened tensions between Japan and China and after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s inflammatory visit to a contested Japanese war shrine in December.

“The whole government, the prime minister and so on, they’re all from the post-war era so there’s a real generational divide from those who experienced the war,” Yamada said.

“I think we should be against this kind of official visit,” he added, referring to Abe’s stop at the shrine that honours 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 war criminals from World War II.

Bullish about quick victory 

The film tells the story of a university student in today’s Japan whose childless great-aunt Taki has just died.

She had been hand-writing her memoirs in her twilight years about her tumultuous time as a maid and nanny in her youth in the home of a toy company executive, his beautiful wife and their sickly son.

Coming from a lower class and with dismal prospects for marriage, Taki is delighted to arrive at The Little House in Tokyo, a lovely structure which looks like it could have emerged from a Frank Lloyd Wright sketchbook.

But the man of the house, Masaki, quickly becomes distracted by preparations for war, as he and his fellow businessmen appear bullish about Japan’s prospects for a quick victory and the opening of a conquered China to their business.

His wife Tokiko, an elegant woman who reads Western novels such as “Gone With The Wind” in her spare time, meanwhile falls hard for a co-worker of her husband’s, an artistic type whose health problems mean he’s unlikely to be drafted -- at least at first.

Yamada portrays the heady optimism of those years as the population was duped by state propaganda that Japan would win the war, a phenomenon he said he vividly remembered from his own childhood.

“All the newspapers were saying ‘Japan will be victorious, Japan will be victorious’ but of course that was not true,” he said.

The director said the illicit love affair as told in the story would have been fraught with risk for all involved, particularly the wife who could have faced criminal charges.

He said he based a final scene when the home is hit in an air raid with incendiary bombs on memories from the war.

“When they fell, they exploded a little like fireworks,” he said.

“Those who experienced it said it might sound peculiar - bang!- but it looked beautiful.”

“The Little House” is one of 20 films in competition for the Berlin festival’s Golden Bear top prize, which will be awarded on Saturday.


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The story as described here hardly touches on any bit of the 'devastating impact of war'. Compare this with scenes of say the Rape of Nanking. What baloney.
I agree with reservations
(1) “present generation not responsible for past generation’s mistakes”
that people inherit benefits only and not costs
except where legalistically provided
such as mortgages on estates?
A MacIntyre would argue otherwise that
(a) all rational human inquiry is conducted within a tradition
that can’t be without blemishes through history
(b) “A tradition is an argument extended through time
in which certain fundamental agreements are defined and redefined”
(2) modern jurisprudence provides no statute of limitations for murder

It is not about the past..always the present to prepare for the future...but if the past is based on lies then the future has no hope. I hope the leaders in Japan will be brave enough to face the truth emanated from the last generation. The mistakes of 70 years ago cannot be the responsibility of the present generation. But a page from the German experience may be helpful...they apologized profusely and unreservedly and they now remain the strongest economy in Europe with all past excesses forgiven and almost forgotten. St. Petersburg lost more than a million citizens but Germany is now the biggest investor in Russia. I have many good Japanese friends...my grandfather died by the Japanese bombs in Guangzhou. And I do not and cannot harbour any hate to my Japanese friends in particular and all Japanese in general. We must also remember that apologies of such monumental proportion(20+ million Chinese were killed by one estimate) has a time limit...after which the opportunity is forever lost...
cwlai, your sentiments are well and fine.
Hopefully you will also feel that Chinese Communist Party should also learn from Germany's experience and offer the Chinese people a similarly profuse and unreserved apology for the 45 Million Chinese that Mao Zedong killed during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution. To paraphrase what you said, if the past is based on lies then the future has no hope.
A murdered Chinese life should be worth the same, and deserve the same level of apology, whether killed by a Japanese in World War 2 or Killed by Mao in 1959-1963.


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