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The Human Condition (Criterion) (1958)

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, more...
Director: Masaki Kobayashi, Masaki Kobayashi
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Japan, War, Criterion Collection
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English

Synopses
The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (Criterion) (1958)
Masaki Kobayashi's mammoth humanist drama is one of the most staggering achievements of Japanese cinema. Originally filmed and released in three parts, the nine-and-a-half-hour The Human Condition (Ningen no joken), adapted from Junpei Gomikawa's six-volume novel, tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji (handsome Japanese superstar Tatsuya Nakadai) from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet POW. Constantly trying to rise above a corrupt system, Kaji time and again finds his morals an impediment rather than an advantage. A raw indictment of its nation's wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi's riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best.

Originally titled Ningen No Joken, No Greater Love is the first of Japanese filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi's Human Condition trilogy. Drawing from his own experiences, Kobayashi weaves the tale of a Japanese pacifist, trying to get by as best he can during World War II. Tatsuya Nakadai plays the leading role of a mine supervisor, whose kindly treatment of POW laborers incurs the wrath of his superiors. As the war in the Pacific rages on, Japan begins suffering heavy losses and military humiliations, yet still Nakadai adheres to his principles. Ultimately overwhelmed by events, Nakadai is horribly mistreated by the powers-that-be, then ordered to don a uniform and fight for his country. Originally released at 200 minutes, No Greater Love was followed in 1961 by the first of two sequels, Road to Eternity (see entry 23819) ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

The Human Condition II: The Road to Eternity (Criterion) (1960)
The second of Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi's Human Condition trilogy was titled The Road to Eternity (originally Zoku Ningen No Joken). Picking up where 1958's No Greater Love left off (see entry 23818 for details), this 1961 film finds the gentle, pacifistic Kaji (Tatsuya Nakadai) being sent to basic training camp in Manchuria in the waning days of World War II. Kaji struggles bravely to stick to his non-aggressive principals, only to be beaten and tortured for his troubles. Pushed to the edge, Kaji ends up killing a fellow soldier in the heat of battle. The film concludes with the surrender of Japan, but the story is open-ended enough to allow for a sequel: 1970's A Soldier's Prayer. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (Criterion) (1961)
A Soldier's Prayer (Ningen No Joken III) was the final entry in Japanese filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi's Human Condition trilogy. As in 1958's No Greater Love (see entry 23818) and 1961's The Road to Eternity (see entry 23819), the protagonist is the pacifistic Kaji, played by Tatsuya Nakadai. Strong-armed into the Japanese military during World War II, Kaji has reluctantly learned to kill on the battlefields. Upon his country's surrender, Kaji gives himself up to the Russian troops, hoping to receive better treatment than he had at the hands of his Japanese superiors. But his hopes are dashed once more, and he is subject to cruelty upon cruelty while imprisoned in a Manchurian POW camp. A Soldier's Prayer, like its predecessors, was based on the epic multipart novel by Jumpei Gomigawa. In sum total, the three Human Condition films run for nearly ten hours. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

The Human Condition, Special Features (Criterion)

Special Features:

  • Excerpt from a rare Directors Guild of Japan video interview with director Masaki Kobayashi, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda (Double Suicide)
  • New video interview with actor Tatsuya Nakadai
  • Video appreciation of Kobayashi and The Human Condition featuring Shinoda
  • Japanese theatrical trailers

GreenCine Member Ratings

The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (Criterion) (1958)
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7.34 (44 votes)
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The Human Condition II: The Road to Eternity (Criterion) (1960)
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8.09 (33 votes)
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The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (Criterion) (1961)
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8.32 (25 votes)
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The Human Condition, Special Features (Criterion)
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0.00 (0 votes)
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Arty Retardy
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the name says it all
bothhouse

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© 2006 All Media Guide, LLC. Portions of content provided by All Movie Guide®, a trademark of All Media Guide, LLC.