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255 Ratings


The Saga of Anatahan

Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Japan, 1953
Drama, War
  • English
  • English


Set during the dying stages of World War II, Anatahan tells the story of twelve Japanese seaman stranded on a forgotten island for seven years. Accompanied only by Keiko, a young Japanese woman, all rationality and discipline are soon overcome by a struggle for power and control.

Our take

Realized from a first person account of being marooned on the Japanese island of Anatahan after WWII, Josef von Sternberg controversially recreated the disputed events with his baroque, magnetic touch. Whether truth or fiction, Anatahan offers a potent look at social power structures in microcosm.

Anatahan Directed by Josef von Sternberg
…All of these formal quirks make Anatahan quite the cutting-edge accomplishment for 1953, though the film hardly gives the impression of a work made for aesthetes alone. On the contrary, Sternberg’s distancing maneuvers imply humility in the face of a story far outside his lived experience, and it’s a vantage point that enables the director to very directly probe existential questions that long consumed him.
February 02, 2017
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Somehow, through all this abstraction, the feeling of bearing sobering witness to the breakdown of civilization comes through vividly.
January 31, 2017
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One of the great masterpieces of cinema, ANATAHAN may not be as well known as Sternberg’s 1930’s films with Marlene Dietrich, but it’s a rich and raw culmination of the themes and stylistic attributes he had been pursuing since the 1920s.
December 07, 2012
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