FIRES ON THE PLAIN follows a soldier, Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi), who, along with hordes of other men, has been stranded in the jungles of the Philippines during the waning days of World War II. As Japan's Imperial Army faces dire conditions -- the men have been cut off from communication, and food is scarce -- gruesome realities descend. Some men go insane. Others resort to cannibalism. Amid the brutality and hopelessness, Tamura, who has tuberculosis, flees his troop and struggles to survive.
Directed by cult director Shinya Tsukamoto (TETSUO: THE IRON MAN) and based on the classic novel, which also inspired the 1959 Kon Ichikawa film of the same name, FIRES ON THE PLAIN has the director’s signature style and gives his all, cranking it up to 11 as he fills in for the roles of writer, director and the star of the film. With intense bursts of violence and incredible sound design, Tsukamoto captures the lunacy caused by war and the lawlessness of the jungle. He clearly went to hell and back making this film, turning in an incredible performance as a slowly dying soldier, still beholden to the Japanese empire, while abandoned by all his comrades.
FIRES ON THE PLAIN is a film that presents war as the zenith of humanity, and Tsukamoto doesn’t pull back on the casualties of war, environmentally and psychologically. Unlike other modern war films that purport to be grimy and gritty, there is zero glamorization here and some scenes are brutal; but perhaps today’s audiences are desensitized to more fictional depictions of rotting corpses and flying limbs from a weekly episode of THE WALKING DEAD.
What Tsukamoto has made is a film that ditches conventional narrative tropes in favor of a hellscape journey of one man losing his sanity as each layer of civility and the rules of war are peeled away as he loses his humanity and literally becomes the walking dead.
The Asian-Cinerama is co-organized by the Asian Film Awards Academy and the Hawaii International Film Festival and is financially supported by Create Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Film Development Fund of the Hong Kong SAR Government.