Monday, December 25, 2006

Letters from Iwo Jima

I saw the film last night. To my mind it was undeniably good and undeniably overrated. As a cautionary note, it's definitely a war movie, relentless blood and gore.

On the epiphany side of things - seeing this film at the Arclight was a true audiovisual experience, with the emphasis on audio. The harsh sound of machine guns and mortars thudding in 3D surround sound is an experience in and of itself. I don't remember ever feeling it so clearly in the past.

The fact that Clint Eastwood directed a film that was almost entirely in Japanese, with (what seemed to me) authentic Japanese mannerisms and modes of behaviour, is astonishing. The few bits of schmaltz can be overlooked.

But the engineer in me wanted a few more touch points. Perhaps I was supposed to do my homework in advance, but it would have added something to know how many days had passed, how many days of bombing (about two months), how many days after the landing was the flag planted (about a week), how many days until the ultimate surrender (another two months), how many Japanese troops (about 20,000), how many American troops (around 100,000), how many Japanese were left at the end of the day (1,028), and how many Americans were killed (over 6,000)... It would have helped if the Japanese troops would have looked a little more bedraggled towards the end - after all, from a few brief hints you know that they're hardly eating and rapidly running out of water...

On the very positive side, I was intrigued to find out now, while poking around on Wikipedia, that the lead character in the film, the commander of the Japanese forces on Iwo, did in fact send letters home, and that those are a basis for the contemporary understanding of what happened on the island.

So, it's not an Apocalypse Now, or The Deer Hunter. But still, a very unusual and striking film.


Post a Comment

<< Home