ON THE PLAIN/B+ B
JAPAN/1959/SUBTITLES/BW/FULLSCREEN 1.33:1/105 MINUTES/DIRECTED BY KON ICHIKAWA/STARRING EIJI FUNAKOSHI, OSAMU TAKIZAWA/VOYAGER/24 CHAPS/CLV/$49.95
Like Ichikawas earlier The Burmese Harp, this is a powerful anti-war drama. Set on Leyte Island in the Philippines toward the end of World War II, Fires on the Plain depicts the horrifying retreat of the decimated Japanese army. It follows one soldier, Tamura, through the desolate and decaying war ravaged landscape. Tamura is separated from his unit because he is suffering from Tuberculosis, but his disease is more representative of the disease that war inflicts on all its victims. Ichikawas camera captures the hopelessness of the situation both in close-up and long shot. Tamuras odyssey is a chronicle of human misery and depravity. Fires on the Plain is an unflinching chronicle of the horror of war and some of the images are extremely disturbing.
The source material for Fires on the Plain is quite good and consequently the image plays very well on laser. Contrast ratios emphasize the power of the widescreen compositions. Night scenes are powerfully depicted with the glow of light creating a aspect of horror to the surrounding devastation. The monaural sound is somewhat thin but it is noise free. Though the film has been transferred at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the white subtitles are presented in the lower black band, effectively creating a 1.77 aspect ratio. For those lucky few with fully adjustable projection systems, you can adjust the position of the image to achieve your full widescreen view.