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The Human Condition – directed by Masaki Kabayashi. Screenplay – written and adapted by Zenzo Matsuyama and Masaki Kobayashi from Junpei Gomikawa’s novel. Black and white film – released 1959-61. Length – 9 and 1/2 hours. According to Tatsuya Nakadai who played Kaji, scouting locations took two months, pre-production – four years and production – three years to complete. Film was shot chronologically. I had great commonality with the protagonist Kaji. Criterion’s dvd description described him as naive, but I felt he held great idealism about people and the world. He tried to apply these values onto people at his job, the army, the systems and the war atmosphere. He treated women generally better than most men in the film. He knew how to be friends with women. Some people liked him a lot while others wanted to take revenge upon him. One by one his idealisms were shot down. Other times his positive treatment of people influenced people a lot. Slowly he began to see the world as very corrupt, which changed from the beginning. At the end, he felt trapped in a corrupt world as if he may never get out.

In the beginning the story takes place at a Japanese prison camp, Loh Hu Liong in South Manchuria two years before World World II ends.The camp houses Chinese workers who use the prisoners as laborers to work the mine.Kaji’s girlfriend lives at the camp with him. Kaji writes a paper called Supervision of Colonial Labor. His employer who hires him reads the paper. His employer says he will make an exchange: to exempt him from serving military service if he works at the mine.He accepts. His job is to coordinate and manage the prisoners at the camp.He works with a Japanese partner who at first withholds his violent abusive behavior toward the workers, but later on his attitude reverts back to his original way, which typifies the majority of the superiors’ attitudes: very mean, harsh and cruel towards the Chinese workers. They constantly hit and kick people, until some die, while Kaji tries to interact with more positiveness without the use of violent behavior. His superiors and work partner disagree with Kaji’s humanist method, but they let him try a few times. He gains the trust of some Japanese recruits and Chinese workers. To the superiors these peoples’ lives are indispensable.Also sometimes the prison guards lie and manipulate scenarios to control the people. For example, an idea of Kaji’s back fires. His favorite person Chen among the Chinese workers dies because the superiors at the top and the prison guards purposely create misinformation.Prisoners escape three times.The superiors wanted to make Kaji’s method look bad; therefore, it forces Kaji to quit.Kaji’s style slowly works, but his superiors do not give him any more chances to prove otherwise. His job causes rift between him and his girlfriend, his common law wife. She tries to understand him and his job but sometimes she cannot. Some Chinese workers escape, but they are killed.Kaji is beaten up and tortured by the camp guards.

He is handed a draft notice to serve in the Japanese military. Since the Japanese military runs the prison camp, the military manipulates the exchange agreement originally made, which excluded Kaji from being drafted into the military. Kaji is forced to serve. Kaji is put under surveillance in the military. He is one of the best recruits. Military superiors know it. He expresses to other fellow recruits, the military is the enemy. His superiors and fellow soldiers think he is crazy. He continues to speak up. The Japanese military acts cruel towards their own recruits. They break and brainwash them until not anything left. Superiors conform to daily taunts and put downs of the weak recruits, physical and mental.

Kaji tries to help a skinny, recruit with glasses who is put down in an exercise march. He carries his pack during a march because it is too heavy. The soldier falls down. Kaji is so frustrated and angry with him that he kicks, hits him, and leaves him because Kaji thinks he does not try hard enough. The skinny recruit does not improve and he quits the training march. Usually Kaji acts or speaks up when he views injustice inflicted upon people such as the weak soldier. Inside the bunks where the soldiers sleep, Kaji looks on without any remorse or anger as his superiors demoralize and make fun of the recruit. Kaji to an extent conforms to the majority. The recruit suicides himself. I bet every military in the world behaves this way. After the death, he expresses to a superior he wants an investigation of the recruit’s suicide. Kaji eventually expresses to his superiors, the main cause of the recruit’s suicide is the military itself. The antagonist superiors do not believe what he has expressed. They hit him. However, the main superior from the top likes what he hears. It shows Kaji has balls: a good soldier. With orders from the top, Kaji is manipulated to remain alive so he can be turned into an officer. The main superior orders him to partner with another superior to manage a mixed aged group, 40ish and young people. Kaji requests they be treated with kindness instead of rough treatment. In this group he meets Terada, a young friend soldier.

Kaji is sent to the Manchurian border to be separated from the superior toughs and the troop he manages.Kaji’s friend Shinjo introduces the idea to escape. This idea enters and churns inside Kaji’s brain. A huge fire spreads on the land.The recruits rush to put it out.At this time Shinjo escapes.Near the border they meet with their enemy the Soviets and battle.Some of Kaji’s group are killed by the Soviets.They dwindle, become strays and wander alone in the Soviet territories.Kaji decides to walk and go home.The recruits meet many types of people and circumstances. Three recruits walk into the forest and meet with women and men.They walk endlessly, hungry and tired.Some cannot make it. They die.Other skirmishes happen with Chinese farm workers who are Communists.Kaji walks in the cold, wet rain, and he thinks about his trapped existence. The Chinese farmers kill a girl who walks with them. From a hill Kaji and his group watch women refugees walk along a road.A truck throws a geisha woman onto the road whom the soldiers rape.They ask people on the road what happened. A Chinese girl with her brother asks to join them.She comes along with them for a while.She wants to go home.Some soldiers say they will walk her and her brother home, but instead they rape her. So repulsed is Kaji, he beats them up and makes them leave his unit.

Finally Kaji and his group surrenders to the Soviet military after a woman botches up their plan at a small village to kill the Soviets.She runs into the middle of the village and starts screaming stop; there by, exposing Kaji’s group.They become POWS at a Soviet camp. The Chinese guards at the Soviet POW camp accuse Kaji of being a saboteur.From working in the prison Kaji’s younger soldier friend, Terada becomes very sick, so weak he has to sleep in a bed.Kaji looks after him. Being accused of a saboteur, Kaji has to report and speak to a Soviet higher up to express his side of the story, but the interpreter interprets his story incorrect.Kaji uses words the interpreter does not understand; therefore, the Soviet higher receives incorrect information and misunderstands. Each incident seems to add to Kaji’s entrapment. Kaji is penalized to work on the rail road for a week. Kaji requests medicine for Terada from the higher up.A fellow soldier tells Terada not to look for food scraps when he is sick, but Terada continues to look for food scraps.He is caught in the act.A military guard beats up Terada and forces him to clean out the urinals but since Terada is sick and weak he cannot perform the task.He falls to the ground and dies.Kaji finds out. When he hears about it, his anger explodes. He says he is leaving.For Kaji the murder of Terada is the last straw. Before he leaves, he wants to find the military man who beat up Terada. This is the same military man Kaji kicked out of his unit for raping the Chinese young woman who had a brother.He beats up the guy and kills him. At the end he doubts all his idealistic dreams, wanders away beaten, cold, starving lifeless in the snow and thinks about his girlfriend, his last literal aspiration. He hopes to see her once again; yet, at the same time not focused in brain and body he moves deliriously. I kept saying as he slowly closed his eyes in the snow drifts: Don’t go to sleep. Stay up.He is so tired. He falls down. He stands up again to try to keep on walking. He falls a second time. He does not get up.The viewer decides what will happen. Most likely he will die buried in the snow drifts.One chance in many chances if someone finds and saves him in this remote forest of China-Japan.

This film provided more understanding about war I only heard about and never experienced as a female. In the news about war, I do not often hear about women who are raped in the military. Usually this news is abstract, not discussed or not written in detail by the military. This film illustrates the issue of women civilians who are preyed upon only as sexual objects, which few American films depict in war.

This film is the best anti war film I ever viewed. I liked it better than many American films about war, except for The Platoon and Apocalypse Now. The film depicts man’s inhumanity towards people that humans are the lowest living beings who live upon this earth without many positive values, scum bags. Also, Kaji’s view of the war and the military simulates my idealism towards life. I am very idealistic about life like Kaji especially as an Indigenous woman filmmaker. This film’s story created great questions within myself about being idealistic. I also, speak up and write about injustices to people. He was a prison guard organizer and soldier at the end of World War II. As I viewed it, he came into this world without harboring much prejudice, ugliness towards people, women and other races compared to a lot of people. Some people do. Kaji has a conscientiousness towards people while many people do not care. Kaji does not want to be affected by the military’s’ negativity: pick up their outlook. In order to survive, he has to conform. Every soldier’s experience is different.

To be idealistic: what happens to a person as me who expresses ideas to people very blatant without sugar coating the truth.I realize now some of those times when I spoke so bluntly,  I could have been physically hurt or even killed. Yes, the world is extremely corrupt in different ways. I have personally experienced corruption in my line of work and in relationships. Also, yes the world is positive, but very little is positive. I live a contemporary life as a Dine’ artist in a conservative world. Most all of my life I have tried to change and improve the Indigenous peoples’ information and status by making films and videos about the Indigenous peoples. I cannot be anything else in the world, except be who I am: a Dine’ filmmaker who takes still photographs, writes songs, poems, stories, sings/plays the open mic and dances modern dance and jazz dance classes. At present I make films and videos to inform and destroy the racism, sexism and misinformation, prejudiced, romanticized and manipulated images created about Indigenous people and women. At this point, the alternative news and the left-wing hackers are the only sources who get it.I see through and distrust the makers of mainstream media, the studios, the critics and others. Very little has changed for Indigenous filmmakers, especially women. To make films and videos,  to manage a cable television network and  a non profit media organization to make and screen films-videos are ways to create change and provide a voice among low income Indigenous filmmakers and women. It is a huge task, to start from the beginning, write the proposals and go through the motions to create the non profit organization or television network. I have to try to know. Once I sent out a description and requested a critique of an Indigenous woman filmmakers’ conference idea to various Indigenous people, but most did not respond. Such a great disappointment from my own people. It showed me I have to believe in myself to create this gathering idea. My film-video aesthetics are very eclectic, not moderate and not as traditional compared to most Indigenous filmmakers, artists and juries. Like Kaji’s escape from the Soviet prison, the chance for this to happen is one in a million, but what choice is for a better life I hope to have in the future, since the mainstream media walls dominate. At least it is positive to try to change our frozen in time images of Indigenous people, especially of women.

“Trying to survive in this world

as a Dine’ filmmaker.

Not to give up.

Not to give up.

Sure it is an idealism.

Sometimes though,

Where is the sun and blue sky

To make me mellow?

Hold on.

Hold on.

I keep saying.

Hold on,

But how much longer?

I have to hold on.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Indian Horse is a fictional novel published in 2012 and written by Richard Wagamese, an Ojibway writer from Canada: yes.  Since the chapters are short to read, it is easy to get into. Sometimes he writes sections like a poem. 

Saul Indian Horse and his family stem from Anishinaberg First Nation from Ontario. His family is named Indian Horse because his great grandfather Shabogeesick travelled east to the Prairies and brought back a horse. White people named his great grandfather Indian Horse. To survive from being taken away, Saul at six-eightish lives with his grandmother, mother and father in the forests of Ontario.  Saul’s parents and grandmother fear the authorities, people and the schools’ tactics to take their children away to school so they constantly are on the move.  Saul’s brother gets captured, but he runs away from school and finds his way back to their parents’ canoe and place where they stay. He returns with a bad cough.  The brother does not know he has tuberculosis. The grandmother suggest they hide deep in the forest. They all canoe on the river to leave. At first Saul’s brother seems to improve but one night his brother dies.  His mom wants to take him to a Catholic priest to obtain a funeral but his grandmother says she does not want that.  The family separates.  Saul’s mom is angry at grandmother.  Saul decides to stay with his grandmother.  He loves the land and living with his grandmother.  Once a car arrives.  The White people take away Saul’s sister, but he and his grandmother get away.  They live in different places. 

They return to Gods Lake, where his family’s ancestors once lived and died. Saul sits on a ledge that overlooks a beach.  He views a camp, an idyllic setting.  People work every day errands and enjoy.  Kids play.  He views eagles fly near a cliff. How I viewed it:  it is a scene which represents how Saul would like it to be, but is not.  He wishes his people could retain this life style forever.  Saul wakes up the next morning with the existence vanished.

Sad. This created similar ideas and feelings within me about my people, the Dine.’ Also, it reminded me about the Ghost Dance in the United States when the Plains Indigenous danced to make all Plains and all Indigenous in U.S., fearless and invincible against the U.S. military, colonialists who wanted to destroy our physical beings, our languages, cultures and take the land we lived on away.  The colonists were very cruel and still are.

Winter returns.  Saul and his grandmother leave Gods Place. They canoe on a river and journey to a member of grandmother’s family.  The weather turns colder.  It is hard to travel through cold, ice and snow.  Once they sleep by mistake in the river as they canoe. It hits a tree stump and tips over.  They swim to land.  Grandmother knows where to walk to.  They end up resting underneath an enclosed rail road station roof.  They rest within each others bodies.  He lies in her arms, but she dies.  She freezes to death.  Some people find him and take him a way to a St. Jerome’s Residential School, a Catholic school.  He is caught.

He stays and lives at the residential school with various First Nations children.   He describes the atrocities which exist at St. Jerome Residential school.  A lot of corruption and atrocities happen to the children. Some children commit suicide. It is very sad.  Saul escapes from the miserable experience of being “imprisoned at the residential school,” by playing hockey. He loves it.  There with the Native team Moose, he meets Virgil who becomes a close friend.

When he first observes the game, he likes it and wants to try it but he is too young to be allowed to play with the older boys so he practices alone on his own the moves before everyone arrives.  He naturally gets better and better.  Saul has a natural physical gift to play hockey.  Yet, at the same time, when he plays with the Moose team against the white teams, he learns how competitive and dirty the game can be; also, how racist it is. The white players taunt and call stereotyped names to the Native guys and team.  The routine of the name calling goes through a phase but it never improves as he gets older.  

At one of the games where the Moose team plays, Saul notices a white man who sits in the crowd.  The players say he scouts for players whom he thinks might play in the junior white hockey team, where the Maple Leafs choose their players. Saul is asked to join the hockey team. At first he hesitates but his team mates urge him to go and play with the junior hockey team. 

Saul accepts and hopes for a good experience, but it is not.  The racist name calling peaks at this time from the mc at the arena, the news media, to the audience they shout: chief, wagon burners….all the names that racism produces to put down Native people.  In hockey it goes as far as to pick fights with Native and team players.  Saul is targeted and assaulted even at restaurants.  In beginning he refuses to fight with other hockey players who pick fights with him. I like this attribute about Saul’s character because it is a positive value I admire among guys. People do not need to physically fight with people when taunted in hockey.  To physically fight in the junior league or in any hockey team is useless, a childish reaction. Of course outside of hockey it is different. If a woman gets raped or if a person gets physically attacked, a person needs to defend her/himself. However, eventually Saul reacts and fights back. Before this time, he loved the sport but after going through the washing machine of name calling and physical assaults because Moose wins; also, due to the fact that Saul is a very good Native player, he begins to despise the sport, a tarnished sport.  He quits leaves and returns home.

After staying with Virgil, his friend, he decides to leave again. His Native friends whom he grew up with at the residential school do not fully understand why he has to do this. 

Saul goes through period of restlessness. He works at various jobs and lives in a few places.  On purpose he does not make friends with other people.  He keeps to himself. At the same time, he starts to drink to put off his loneliness. One day he befriends Erv Swift a man who literally helps Saul get healthy from his bad alcoholic condition. This man gives Saul a place to stay at his farm.  Saul follows through on the errands he gives him. Saul likes him because the man does not inquire too much into his life. Although this man treats Saul very kind and helps him a lot, Saul has to leave to again. 

After leaving Dawn Centre, a place that helps people with alcohol drinking, Saul buys a canoe at Minaki with supplies and canoes to Gods Lake, again.  He revisits his past. He views his ancestors.  He camps a night and leaves the next day.

Saul visits a couple Fred and Martha Kelly from the residential school.  He finally expresses his deepest feelings about everything that happened at the school, especially about the hockey coach, Father Leboutilier. Before he felt ashamed and afraid to express anything to anyone, but he trusts them. He said the coach came into his room and touched him when he was a young boy.  They made a deal with each other.  Saul allows the father to touch him and Saul is allowed to play on the hockey team when he actually is not allowed. Also, since Saul does not have a male figure head to look up, Father Leboutilier substitutes. He likes him. His Native friends said, “We experienced what you experienced.  Everyone did.  You are not alone,” they said to him.  Saul feels good to release and share his feelings to other Native people who experienced similar experiences.  

He says to Vigil, “I want to give back by coaching potential Native hockey players.”  Virgil knows the current hockey team needs help with coaching.  Virgil invites him to meet up with the Moose team whom he knew at the residential school.  Saul meets his old Moose hockey teammates who are older, have kids and have gained weight, but he feels good to see them. They play a hockey game. The opposite team wins, but it does not matter to Saul anymore, if the opposition wins. ___________________________________________________________________________________________

I was so surprised to like Indian Horse so well, the first fictional novel I read in my life written by a Native writer in Canada.  The first time I read books a lot, I was fourteen-fifteen years old. A memory: on Friday night at my parent’s home in Phoenix, Arizona, I sat at a kitchen table clean and cleared with my feet propped up on the opposite kitchen chair under the table.  Everyone else watched television.  I was ready to read my book, my Friday night entertainment.  The second time I read intensely, I had a producers job at Columbia Pictures in 86-87 in Los Angeles. I read novels written by Indigenous women and men, but Indigenous women wrote more novels than Indigenous men.  Indigenous female novels were more available than Indigenous men at the time.  After 1988, I never picked up reading books again like that. I do not know why. It just happened.  So during 2010-2012 I made up for the lack of reading books. Economically I could not afford to watch television anymore which is why too. Fees attached to watch cable television became expensive. I am low income. Actually I miss watching television.  Television and film are my fields to analyze trends and types of shows. I developed and liked some favorite television shows such as “Dancing With the Stars, Nature, America’s Top Model” and feature film dramas. Books are expensive to purchase.  To alleviate this cost, I check out books and DVDs from the local library to read and view.  Thank you: libraries of the world to save the day.

“Indian Horse glued me to the story.  Although the writer writes about hockey, a sport I am not a great fan of. Patiently I read through the hockey sections. I prefer writers to write simple descriptions than use long, academic words to describe a story, which  Wagamese does well.  At times he writes like a poem such as Saul’s visit to Gods Lake.

 

 

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