Reviews of Children of Hiroshima
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How does a nation deal with a traumatic event as awful as the a-bomb? In a way the world is lucky Japan’s ultimate reaction was to immediately drop their war-inducing nationalistic side and become pacifists, but it’s not like they could take the beating without some major loss of strength and a little resentment. Shindo’s Children of Hiroshima is not a documentary, and in places it’s actually quite melodramatic, but what it paints is a portrait of post-war Japan slowly letting go of its recent past and just beginning to start looking forward to the future, as the final clinging threads of hatred, fear, and radiation sickness grasp on to the victims who managed to survive but only after losing everything.
The story is told through the perspective of Takako, a young kindergarten teacher from Hiroshima who managed to escape the bomb and returns to visit her parent’s grave. While there, she finds a city being rebuilt and operating functionally, but still deeply scarred by the event, represented by two repeated motifs: the blasted out building that characters continue to linger on, and the burnt away face and eyes of Iwakichi, an old friend of hers turned begger after the bomb took his family and his vision and left him nothing but his grandson that he cannot support and a reliance on alms. Iwakichi’s story about his grandson incites Takako to search out the three surviving children from her kindergarten class, each of them representing in some way the state of Japanese families in Hiroshima post-bomb: the first is losing his family to radiation sickness, the second is dying herself from radiation sickness, but the third is excited and proud that his sister is marrying. Families are still falling apart years after the bomb dropped, but families are starting to come together and a future is starting to take place, so Takako is inspired to return to Iwakichi and ask if she can adopt his grandson.
The problem is that resentment does still linger and scarred-Japan is not so willing to let go as fresh-faced Japan. Iwakichi initially refuses to let go of his grandson and his grandson refuses to let go of him, the point in the movie where the drama does get the most melodramatic. Shindo’s use of children as a sort of looking-forward is a very good one, but he also uses them for emotional tugs in the audience which does at points tend towards the sappy, one thing that a movie about Hiroshima probably shouldn’t be. Shindo’s intentions are clear and his instincts are good, but at points he loses his soft touch. Possibly the worst feature of this movie is the score, which is unnecessarily manipulative—in some scenes, the performances are overburdened by emotional cues.
Otherwise this is a great movie, especially visually. Shindo’s compositions are classic style filmmaking, and his blocking always tells the story without need for the dialog or score. There are some major unforgettable images here, such as the open sky over Hiroshima and the blasted shadow of a thinking man. He also is fond of these amazing wide shots as children run through the streets of Hiroshima, showing a budding and building community that nevertheless lives on despite the focus on the struggle of survival and healing in the main focus of the plot.
- Currently 3.0/5 Stars.