Emperor Review

Posted 9 years ago by myetvmedia

War is an ugly thing. The scars of war were so poignantly visible to the world in the decimated scenes of post WWII Japan. The Japanese people had finely been brought to their knees by the obliteration caused with the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Photo courtesy of Eagle Films

The world looked with horror at the incomprehensible magnitude of destruction. It was a terrible confirmation of the ultimate, compassionless power of humans.  The images have never gone away nor should they. The Japanese are a people with strong personal and national pride and a great devotion to their Emperor. Hirohito was considered the Supreme Commander of Japan‘Emperor’ is inspired by true events, vividly capturing the intimate and complicated issues involving Japan’s surrender and accountability, particularly the roles played by key Japanese leaders during the war, including that of the Emperor.

Photo courtesy of Eagle Films

‘Emperor’ starring Tommy Lee Jones as General Douglas MacArthurMatthew Fox (General Bonner Fellers) and Eriko Hatsune as Aya Shimada is a historical drama set in 1945, immediately following Japan’s surrender at the end of WW2. Director Peter Webber employs flashbacks to  tell the intimate tale of  love central to this movie, between lovers on opposite sides of the war and in a sharp contrast to the Japanese distaste for their humiliation at the hands of the Americans. Webber graphically reminds us that in Japan suicide was considered the only honorable option in defeat rather than the dishonor of capture and trial. The Emperor  is so worshipped that no soldier may cast his gaze upon him. Webber gives us a better understanding of a people so wracked by shame and cultural indoctrination that utter and unquestioning devotion to one man is plausible. 

Photo courtesy of Eagle Films

General MacArthur is charged with determining whether there is evidence to have Emperor Hirohito stand trial as a war criminal and be hanged for his role in the perpetration of war crimes. MacArthur hands the difficult task of finding the evidence to General Fellers. A difficult diplomatic endeavor, Fellers had to balance the tensions in Japan with the expectations of the post war victors back in Washington. The outcome would be a decision of immense historical significance.

General Fellers is familiar with the Japanese language and customs through previous service. In love, years before, with the beautiful Japanese schoolteacher Aya (Eriko Hatsune), Fellers tries to rekindle his lost love while carrying out his mission. The two had met while she was an exchange student in the US. Their love affair, which continued when Aya returned to Japan, had been abruptly ended by the War. If there was any fire in this relationship, unfortunately we don’t see it. Webber is masterful in capturing the nuances of Japanese war psychology in their defeat and the American imperialist boast of rebuilding a country they’ve collectively destroyed. Once again, Tommy Lee Jones does not disappoint in capturing the ambitious and political spirit of General MacArthur. And Fellers is no ‘ugly American’; handsome, sympathetic, objective and moral, he’s just not intense enough to carry off the forlorn yet passionate wartime lover.

Photo courtesy of Eagle Films

What the film does accomplish in abundance is pose the question of Hirohito’s culpability, if any, in authorizing the bombing of Pearl Harbor and thus setting off one of the bloodiest war campaigns in history, culminating in the devastating use of the atom bomb. Allegedly, when Hirohito was asked for his consent for the attack on Pearl Harbor, he replied as the Shinto leader by singing a poem to his ministers. Enigmatic to the end, MacArthur through Fellers saw it fit to pardon Hirohito despite his involvement in the war and brought the worshiped leader to heel in a photo opportunity for the American public.  The untouchable and inaccessible Hirohito, no less than a god to the Japanese, humbled and brought down to earth by the Great American General.

Photo courtesy of Eagle Films

This movie was shown at TIFF 2012 in Toronto. Although the script could have explored its characters more deeply, and in particular given us more of Hirohito himself, it is still an interesting, thought-provoking movie capturing a fascinating period in the history of Japan. Perhaps Weller felt it more important to sustain the mythological persona of Emperor as the Japanese saw him and not the diminutive philosophical man we get in the end.

Moira Romano/ Alfredo Romano

Trailer

Gallery

  • Emperor
  • Emperor
  • Emperor
  • Emperor
  • Emperor
  • Emperor
  • Emperor

ETV Newsletter

Get the latest on the media landscape and the minds that create inspiring, paradigm-shifting ideas. Sign up and stay in the loop.

Advertise with Us

close