World War II Marathon: Nobi (Fires On The Plain, 1959)


Film #15 in the World War II Marathon!

Written By: Natto Wada
Directed By: Kon Ichikawa

I once wrote about Hotaru No Haka and its ability to create beauty out of ugly situations. It’s not easy to pull off, but Nobi manages to accomplish the same thing. It is a beautiful movie in its composition, the way it is put together and shot is almost breathtaking. Nobi is also as ugly as could be, what Tamura witnesses and what he does can’t be described as anything but ugly. The world is an ugly place, and it takes a special movie to present that ugliness in a beautiful way, Nobi is a special movie.

Eiji Funakoshi has an odd head, I tell you this because it helps in his portrayal of Tamura. His character is sickly and from the moment he appears on screen he is able to look the part because of how disproportionate his head is with the rest of his body. He’s a skinny guy, but his head is huge and that only helps to highlight that something is wrong with him. I know this seems like an odd facet of Nobi to center on, but sometimes it is the little touches, maybe even unintentional, that help to enhance a good movie.

It takes Nobi a while to get going, and I don’t mean this in a bad way. Tamura is a slow and labored character, every movement he makes appears as if it may be his last. Nobi is the same, it presents itself in a slow and labored fashion, never moving too fast or jumping ahead of itself. This creates the sensation that the movie itself will break down at any moment, that the next reel will rip in half as you are in the middle of the film. It’s a very meta experience, but yet another way in which the film is enhanced.

As much as I lauded the pacing of Nobi above, it does come off the rails a bit around the hour mark. When Tamura and the Japanese soldiers first encounter US troops the film meanders for a bit too long. It loses focus for only a few minutes, but those few minutes of lost focus are quite noticeable. It may only be a few minutes but it is enough to knock the movie back a bit in my estimation.

Nobi isn’t the best I’ve seen in the World War II marathon so far, nor is it the best I’ve seen from Kon Ichikawa. However it is a great movie with an interesting presentation style that masks its brutality and graphic nature under a veneer of outward beauty. Nobi is definitely worth a watch, especially if you are into war movies.




2 responses to “World War II Marathon: Nobi (Fires On The Plain, 1959)

  1. This sounds like a must. I had never heard of this film until I spotted your review. Thanks.

  2. You know I live for you Edgar, therefore making you happy shall keep me warm on this cold October night…

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