Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Hollow Fires

The sound of dried plants and drier voices greets us, nothing but wind and the slow jerky movements of creatures that where once . Watching the scene unfold, I cannot help to think of the first section of TS Eliot’s "The Hollowed Men": "We are the hollow men ... Our dried voices, when / We whisper together / Are quiet and meaningless / As the wind in dry grass / Or rats’ feet over broken glass".
Kon Ichikawa's Fire on the Plains, part of the ongoing Shadows of the Rising Sun film series, takes place during the last throws of the Japanese Imperial Army's hold on the unforgiving landscape of the Philippine island of Leyte in February 1945. We follow Private Tamura, a sunken-eyed, tubercular straggler; his army of walking skeletons with tattered clothes barely fitting their wasting frames; and other unfortunate beings Tarumua meets while traveling.

There is nothing triumphant or sentimentality patriotic in their situation--only the silent battlefield where triumphs and defeats mean equally nothing. The slow procession of the walking dead mirrors their agonizing craving for the nectar of life, but they merely suffer the eternal starvation brought on by their own barbaric, hollow and feeble attempts at glory. Their voices and gestures are as nonsensical as the wind through the dead grass. They are stuffed with hollow shadows of their former self. Again, they are Eliot's  hollow men on the hollow plains:
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men
Shadows of the Rising Sun continues tonight with Caterpillar, and Devils on the Doorstep and
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence on Sunday, December. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $9 for Japan Society memebers, students & seniors.

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