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A grim, intense Japanese war drama, FIRES ON THE PLAIN follows Funakoshi, a tubercular soldier condemned to wander a battle-scarred landscape in the closing days of WW II. Separated from his unit and rejected by the hospital because he must have his own food in order to gain admittance,
Funakoshi flees the advancing Americans and is forced to hide in the jungle, where he encounters all manner of dangers, disease, and horror. Stunningly composed in black and white on a widescreen DaieiScope canvas, FIRES ON THE PLAIN is beautiful to look at (its magnificent Philippine vistas
swallowing the insignificant Funakoshi) although philosophically horrible to contemplate. The world that director Ichikawa brings to the screen (based on the 1951 novel by Shohei Ooka) is difficult to bear--a world of brutality, pain, death, destruction, and cannibalism--in short, a world of war.
In it Ichikawa has created one of the great indictments of war and one of the most painful examinations of humanity. Unfortunately, the videocassette is not letterboxed (except for the opening-credit tease), virtually destroying the power and beauty of the visual composition.