The Sun Review

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After Japan's loss in Word War II, Emperor Hirohito is confronted by General Douglas MacArthur, and pressured into accepting a potentially shameful diplomatic result.


Following Moloch (Hitler) and Taurus (Lenin), Alexander Sokurov completes his leaders-under-pressure series with this study of Emperor Hirohito in the hours before Japan’s surrender to the Americans in 1945.It’s a measured portrait of an essentially decent man, whose scientific background and mistrust of his militarist ministers prompts him to divest the monarchy of its divinity in order to spare his people further suffering. Clearly this won’t please veterans of the Pacific campaign. But Issey Ogata’s gently idiosyncratic performance implies the humanity and pragmatism that persuaded General Douglas MacArthur against citing Hirohito for war crimes.A hint of caricature diminishes some of the minor figures, but Sokurov otherwise sustains an atmosphere of compassionate detachment that he occasionally lightens with moments of deft comedy.

Measured, wry and touching portrait of the Japanese emperor Hirohito as a genial gentleman who would rather study marine biology than bear the burden of being a dynastic deity whose people are duty-bound to die to protect him.