The Japanese film trilogy Ningen no jôken (1959-61) is an ethicist’s smorgasborg.
The protagonist, Kaji, is a well-meaning humanist who constantly finds himself swimming against the tide first as a factory manager in Japanese-occupied Manchuria (Episode 1), then as a drafted soldier (Episode 2) and lastly as a battle survivor trying to survive amid enemy forces (Episode 3).
In this review I’ll look only at Episode 1 because of its focus on labour and management. Episodes 2 and 3 deal with warfare.
It’s fair to say the film, and novel on which it is based, are the fruit of a penitent Japanese wondering, post-war, how things got so out of hand and what happened to the voices of restraint.
Kaji begins the film as an idealistic and newlywed graduate sent to Manchukuo, Japan’s puppet state in Northeast China, during World War II. He works in a factory making iron which is…
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