Monday, January 23, 2012

Castle under fiery skies: A Japanese movie review

By Henry Zakumumpa

The Embassy of Japan in Uganda runs an annual Japanese movie film festival in Kampala, to which I have been a faithfully attendee since 2004.

'Castle under fiery skies' is a remarkable Japanese film. It is an affecting and truly engaging film with appealing multiple themes that mesh together nicely. It gets off to a slow start but gains the pace gradually while slowly drawing you in.

I underestimated it within the first few minutes of viewing but my assessment of it earned a five-star review progressively and by the time the credits rolled on I was sold.

The plot is actually an uncomplicated one but the director makes the most out of it.

The film centres around the ambition of a young Japanese emperor to build a four-storey giant of a castle to make a point to rival principalities but also to help unite the rival groupings that make up 1850s Japan.

The Japanese emperor calls for a competition from architects within his kingdom' to build the 'greatest' castle in Japan with in an unprecedented three years. Japan at the time was an ununited island country made of small rival 'kingdoms'.

The race to build the 'greatest castle' with three years is also part of the political power play by a young and ambitious leader to woo other sub groupings that make up Japan.

After the competition for building the castle is called, leading architects of the time make presentations before the emperor who is to make the final pick of the winner. This involves making miniature models of the proposed castle to house the emperor.

Astonishingly, a lowly carpenter wins the competition after dramatically showing the flaws of his rival designs. He is then handed the 'impossible mission' of building an unprecedented castle using materials which are not available (and construction staff) and yet within an ambitious time frame of three years.

'Castle under fiery skies' is also an intensely human film from the perspective of the protagonist the 'master carpenter' whose all-consuming desire to accomplish a task comes at a very high price and tests his abilities beyond mere technical know how. On one level it is a story of the indomitable human spirit.

The depiction of wifely servitude from a Japanese cultural point of view(not very dissimilar to Ugandan traditional culture) is explored through the 'master carpenter's wife.

In a word 'Castle under fiery skies' is a film about Japanese cultural values of thrift,duty,honor,personal sacrifice,excellence,hard work, family and even romantic love.

It's a visual feast and.. you are invited.


Anonymous said...

Thanks ! I was looking for a review of this movie,so,after your words,I'm going to watch it! :) Greetings from Italy! Bye! Diego

Henry Zakumumpa said...

Diego, please go see it!