Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Letters from Iwo Jima

This evening I went to another movie presented for a local history class but open to the community. Tonight they had Letters from Iwo Jima for the class as well as the screenwriter, Iris Yamashita, on hand to introduce it and answer questions afterwards. I have still not seen the movie to which this is the companion film.

The film work is odd. Of course, using color to starkly differentiate one environment from another is one of the first things that was done when color was new (as in the Wizard of Oz), but this is not exactly that sort of thing. It is done more like the manner in which the eye operates in that the color fades away as things become dark, with the bright red of a flag the last to go. At night or in the caves the color almost completely vanishes. Then the battle comes closer and a sudden flash fills the screen with reds and yellows for a moment.

It is an interesting way to treat a film.

This moment of the war finds two leaders, including the general, who have had some experience in the country that they are fighting. At first the film seems to be glorifying their somewhat unstereotypical outlook, or at least making these men who have American influence seem somehow more sensible for it. By the end of the film, though, they have found the same honor as their compatriots and there is most definitely nothing sensible about anything. One man even survives. He is no better or worse for it, this is just so.

We may not understand suicide over fighting a losing battle. I certainly couldn't. It seems to me that if you're going to fight a war, you're just helping out the enemy by this sort of honor. By her comments during the question and answer, the screenwriter also does not agree with this honor. However, the movie she has put together does not truly make the judgement call. In many ways, on this point, you bring from it what you take into it, a very amazing accomplishment.

The point is not who is wrong or right. The point is that with all the differences, they really are all people with the same thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams when you get down to the meat of it. Those on the island all faced death in different ways based on their different influences, but in the end they (nearly) all died. They had jobs and loved ones and even goodness and fears, each one a precious life lost. Lost for what?

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