Political Film Society - Letters from Iwo Jima

PFS Film Review
Letters from Iwo Jima


Letters from Iwo JimaBased on letters written by soldiers at Iwo Jima that were discovered many years later, Letters from Iwo Jima reconstructs the efforts of Japanese soldiers to defend the strategic island of Iwo Jima in 1945. The movie is subtitled and in black and white. When the film begins, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (played by Ken Watanabe) has arrived to handle the defense. His command extends to the naval troops, who resent being under his authority. He begins by stopping the digging of trenches at the beach and moves artillery into caves on Mount Suribachi. The soldiers, many without proper training, are without proper food, and water supplies are destined to run out soon. The few remaining civilians must be evacuated. Air and naval support is denied. The Americans have just destroyed the Japanese naval fleet at Saipan and are sailing toward Iwo Jima to assert overwhelming supremacy. The only way to hold the loyalty of troops that rationally would surrender to the Americans is to prey on their fears about American barbarity, later proved unfounded, and tp remind them that true soldiers fight until death. Much of the film focuses on Saigo (played by Kazunari Ninomiya), a baker who was drafted, sent to Iwo Jima without training while his wife was pregnant, was lucky enough to survive when comrades near him died, wrote letters prolifically, but died in the end. Kuribayashi has flashbacks to the time when he was honored by American friends at Harvard with the gift of a special pistol. Audiences will gradually become sympathetic to the plight of the soldiers who face inevitable death. Although some may perceive the film as glorifying Japanese militarism, the story portrays a victimization of decent soldiers by a code of behavior now discredited in Japan and thus is an anti-war film about the futility of military aggression. The Political Film Society has nominated the film, directed by Clint Eastwood, as the best film of 2006 in promoting consciousness of the need for peaceful rather than violent methods for resolving conflicts. MH

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