Grave of the Fireflies: the Forgotten Souls of a Nation

Woahhhhhhhh, hôm nay mình dọn dẹp ổ đĩa thì tìm được một bài viết ngắn về anime Grave of the Fireflies (đạo diễn Isao Takahata) mà học kì rồi mình viết cho lớp lịch sử cận đại Nhật! Grave of the Fireflies có thể xem là phim kinh điển về xã hội Nhật trong thế chiến thứ II. Cùng với những tác phẩm của Hayao Mizayaki, bộ phim đã góp phần nâng tên tuổi của Studio Ghibli và hoạt hình Nhật lên tầm cỡ quốc tế. Vì đây là một trong những phim Nhật yêu thích nhất, xin đăng bài này lên đây để giới thiệu phim. Khi nào có điều kiện sẽ viết một bài review kĩ hơn. Xem thêm thông tin tiếng Việt và download ở đây.

Nếu review phim này trong một câu? Đây là phim xem xong “không khóc không ăn tiền.” ^^

Grave of the Fireflies resonates well with Monday lecture (03/22) on Japan and World War II. The powerful emotional experience that the film creates enables us to understand Japan as a historical actor in WWII from a different angle: that of the ordinary people.

The story centers on two siblings, Seito and Setsuko, who lose their mother and become homeless in an American air raid in Kobe. Their father is serving the Imperial Navy, so the two are taken in by a distant aunt. The aunt sympathizes with their plight at first, but as the war, hunger and poverty goes on, she slowly starts to see them as burdens. Seito decides to take his little sister to a cave where they try to eke out a living together by trading goods, fishing, and even stealing. Gradually, however, hunger plagues the town. Setsuko suffers from malnutrition and eventually dies. As hinted, Seito also shares the same fate in the end.

Grave of the Fireflies delivers a clear anti-war message on the surface. Scenes of bombs from kamikaze airplanes glittering in the sky like fireflies may awe many for their beauty. Yet the devastated aftermath neighborhoods remind us of the ugly truth that bombs are destructive weapons after all. In another scene, we get a graphic view of the corpse of Seito’s and Setsuko’s mother, badly burnt by bombs and filled with maggots. The ramifications of the war are so vividly depicted they can tear viewers’ hearts.

Although anti-war,  the film does not figure-point at any political entity. The source of destruction solely comes from the kamikaze airplanes, which remain impersonal throughout the story. There is absolutely no dichotomy of “them” the evil and “us” the heroic.

In more depth, it is human nature at the face of adversity that director Takahata is interested in exploring. Most of the characters, no matter how significant their roles are, can be identified with this theme. The children’s aunt, for example, signifies human beings’ selfishness. She represents those who have sympathy but lack empathy. She pities the two homeless orphans enough to shelter them, yet cannot embrace them as her own family. We can also see the condemnation of pride in the character Seito. Seito would rather live in a cave and struggles to earn a living than reconcile with his aunt. This decision, in a sense, directly leads to Setsuko’s fatal condition. Based on a semi-autobiography of Akiyuki Nosaka, who survived the war while his sister died of starvation, the story carries an apologetic tone from Seito’s perspective. Last but not least, Setsuko represents the essence of purity in human nature. Despite the brutality of the war, Satsuko never loses her innocence. When she learns about her mother’s death, she innocently digs a grave for the fireflies and for mother. As her brother gets arrested for stealing, she stands outside, in the dark, waiting for him. In a sense, Setsuko is a firefly, a source of fragile yet luminous light amidst darkness of the night and of the nation.

Grave of the Fireflies is ultimately not a political war propaganda. It is a tale of the ordinary people of Japan, the forgotten souls of a nation whose fate is sealed in a turbulent and disturbing period of history.

Viết ngày 25/3/2010

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