In 1945, Japan surrendered to the United States and the Second World War was over. Right? Wrong. For eighty percent of the Japanese community in Brazil, Japan had won the war and defeat was nothing more than American propaganda. The few immigrants that accepted the truth were persecuted. Some were hunted down and assassinated – by their own countrymen – causing the start of a new, private war. Dirty Hearts is a thriller and love story told by the wife of one of the fanatics dedicated to preach Japanese victory. Little by little, she watches her husband, a hard-working immigrant, become an assassin and their love story fade away. The acting is really up to par, it never falls in the clichés and it doesn’t really have down time. The lives of that small community are all shattered and scattered and it feels like an heavy weight that we watch coming closer and closer.
The first assassination target is a man named Aoki, one of the few people who can help the two groups to even attempt to communicate. Col. Watanabe, an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army, equates communication with collaboration. Aoki is a traitor, therefore he must die. There’s an early scene in which a Brazilian soldier breaks up a Japanese gathering (assembly was forbidden), insults the people there, pushes some of them around and wipes his boots with the Japanese flag.Bad behavior and worthy of punishment, sure, but Watanabe convinces his followers that the man should be beheaded (!!!) for the disrespect shown to the flag. Watanabe has incredible power over the community!
Without being a perfect movie, Dirty Hearts has strength and competence sufficient to engage the public and carry forward the reflection that comes with Vicente Amorim offering on the excesses of nationalism. Anyway, I knew that there was a big Japanese community in Brazil but I did not know about the events related in the movie. Brazilian director Vicente Amorim, who is here in Montreal with Tsuyoshi Ihara to introduce the film, said he had not known about them either, and only learned about them through a novel, also called Coraçoes Sujos, by Fernando Morais. A man in the audience said that one could draw parallels with McCarthyism in the U.S., which is certainly true. You could probably spend many hours, possibly days, making other, equally valid comparisons.
The filming can be erratic at times but it’s a minor point and doesn’t do much harm to the movie itself, which overall stands pretty solid on its feet. If one believes there are things to be learnt from History then this movie definitely teaches you something. I likedt he inside look at a community in face of a traumatic change. The dilemmas that all the characters have to deal with. The symbolic of some shots, for example the use of cotton. The main actress not uttering a word but telling us so much nonetheless. I disliked the use of the blurry effect, it was overused and it seemed to have no real purpose. The ending seemed a little convenient, it doesn’t take much out of the overall movie at all, but it left me this impression.