Directed By Aleksandr Sokurov
This is the third part of Sokurov’s tetrology, following “Moloch” (offering a view on Hitler)and “Taurus” (Lenin). The final film sketches a portrayal of the Japanese Emperor Shouwa – Tennou Hirohito (Issei Ogata) during the last days of World War II and the meetings with General MacArthur (Robert Dawson), leading to the Emperor’s renouncing of his divinity in January 1946.
The film slowly opens amidst the sound of faint rumbling in the gloomy claustrophobic atmosphere of the imperial bunker in Tokyo. The enigmatic Emperor is having breakfast surrounded by faithful servants who attend to his every need (later we are to discover that he has never opened a door in his life). In reply to a question from MacArthur, “What’s it like being a living god?”, he replies, “What can I tell you? You know, it is not easy being an Emperor.”
As the chamberlain (Shirô Sano) outlines his schedule for the day, Hirohito’s lips quiver and he appears to silently mouth words in repetition as he does throughout the movie; nothing, it seems, is his own. Amidst the shrivelled trappings of Empire he appears a puppet dancing to tunes utterly beyond his comprehension.
When Hirohito appears dressed in western clothes to be photographed by the American press, they do not believe that this stiff frail little man can be an Emperor. His presence appears almost as abstract as the poems he writes, or the Hollywood images he views when alone.
MacArthur sees the Emperor as a child, and protects him for the sake of the future stability of Japan, rather than allowing him to face a war tribunal. After their second meeting Hirohito is allowed to return to his palace, where he lays his head upon the shoulder of Empress Kojun (Kaori Momoi) who offers him the affection he so desperately needs. The film closes with the sense of a new light shining over the destroyed city.
This is a fine film from one of the outstanding filmmakers. Available on DVD.