“Nation is a wall between men…it isolates human beings from each other and cuts ties. In other words, it’s against the divine law; so I intend to continue attacking it.”
In Kobe City, Hyogo, there is a man named Kenzo Okuzaki. He is a veteran of the Second World War and is searching for the men responsible for the deaths of two soldiers in his regiment executed twenty-three days after the war had ended. It was following the New Guinea campaign and many horrible deeds are rumoured to have been committed there. Throughout the film, Okuzaki interrogates former military men demanding answers. Tales of starvation and cannibalism arise. His was the 36th Regiment though he became a prisoner of war one year before the war ended. It is now forty years after the war and tensions are still taut. Okuzaki continually blames Emperor Hirohito for his conduct and misguided judgment during the war. He declaims the man as a “symbol of ignorance, irresponsibility, and impossibility.” Less than two years following the release of this film, Hirohito would die of cancer, since to be remembered as Emperor Showa. He was undeniably caught within a difficult time, but nevertheless attributed to the encouragement of mass civilian suicides (which did indeed occur), use of toxic gas, and was, some say, either a puppet or a ruler who lost control of his military.
There is, early in the film, a wedding between a Mr. Otagaki and Miss Sano. Okuzaki acts as a go-between at the ceremony. He gives a speech detailing his relationship with Mr. Otagaki and the circumstances of their mutual imprisonment. Okuzaki has spent thirteen years and nine months in prison for three convictions: murder, assault, and obscenity. His crimes are the murder of a real estate broker, the shooting of a sling at Emperor Hirohito, scattering pornographic flyers of the Emperor, and for plotting to murder the former prime minister, Kakuei Tanaka. These crimes, all part of Okuzaki’s belief in nonconformity. The misguided leadership of Emperor Hirohito and, what he believes, the unlawful execution of two soldiers, are only a piece in the puzzle of this man’s conviction. He is uncompromising in this vision and therefore, a danger to others.
At the beginning of the film, Okuzaki informs the chief of police that he is leaving for Tokyo. The chief is pleased that he was made aware but wary, suggesting a police escort for half of the journey just in case. Okuzaki is an enigmatic man who is no stranger to violence or deception and using such tactics to discover the truth he’s seeking. On the Emperor’s birthday, he denounces the establishment via loudspeaker, driving a vehicle covered with signs and writings of protest. He is also a man of compassion and honour, visiting the graves and loved ones of the two executed soldiers.
Kazuo Hara is a noted documentary filmmaker whose films (particularly this one) tend to end up on “top favourites” lists of auteur filmmakers. It is his most wellknown and decorated film, embodying the central concept of all his documented subjects: nonconformity. Shot by Hara himself, the film is a rough compilation of handheld interviews and conversations, arguments and confrontations; a no-frills documentary that’s only focus is to depict Okuzaki and his cosmology. It is a film portraying a kinetic reality, well beyond the scope of such modern attempts at reality filmmaking. Hara is ever the observer, filming it all, but never participating; prompting one former officer to scream at him whilst being strangled by Okuzaki, “You just film it and do nothing?” Does this mimic Hara’s own cry to the audience? Do we conform because it’s easier to endure or dare we oppose the establishment and bare our individuality?