Human Condition, Part 1 is probably the most movie film I’ve ever seen. Directed by Masaki Koyabashi, Human Condition, Part 1 shows places idealistic hero Kaji-san in a Manchurian mine that’s managed with an iron fist. Young Kaji-san believes if the workers are treated humanly, they’ll produce more. Even if they didn’t, he believes it’s the right thing to do. Who wouldn’t agree?
The answer is plenty of the other managers and administrators. The head honcho will indulge Kaji-san, but only so far. That man’s main preoccupation seems to be living the easy life. Okishima-san is a veteran at the mind, who think’s Kaji-san’s ideas are too humanistic, but he’s open to giving them a try. He’s one of the few friends Kaji has.
Soon the mine is given 600 Chinese war prisoners. At the same time the higher ups have increased the quota by 20%. Kaji-san wants to see them treated well. He’s certainly alone on that.
When the train comes with the Chinese, the workers are emaciated. Fifteen died en route. Kaji-san campaigns for humane treatment for the Chinese. By giving them more food, by no means a lot, they are able to work. Trouble comes when some of these prisoners start to escape. Kaji-san’s Chinese assistant Chen gets talked into convincing his pal who mans the electricity to shut it off after 1 am. When the third group tries to escape, Kaji-san’s nemesis accuses Kaji-san, who was totally in the dark, of allowing the prisoners to escape.
The acting, particularly Nakadai’s, is outstanding. I’ve never been so moved. While the camera is used masterfully, the film manages to blend naturalism and art.
Three and a half hours is a long time for a film, but the time speeds by. That’s quite a feat.