Letters from Iwo Jima, Blog Thoughts from Me

Finally saw this movie. It reminded me of a lot of the stories I get submitted to Trabuco Road. Nice writing, but way too thin. And that’s about all I can say about it without outing myself as an America-first cultural bigot. Which may be how the following paragraph is interpreted.

It was hard to care about any of the characters in the movie. I’ve read too many first-hand accounts of US Marines lately to be able to watch that show and not come away hating Imperialist Japan. That the thanatophilic emperor managed to avoid getting hung from his skin by his own subjects after the war is incredible (I blame MacArthur). The movie, taken from a high-level viewpoint, was like Schindler’s List in reverse (though similar in its lack of plot). The guy has an opportunity to save thousands of lives by working against the despotic empire that employs him, but unlike Schindler, this one goes ahead and authorizes the bloody deluge. I mean, not that, as a general, one would expect differently from him. Just that, if he *had* done something different, that might be something to make a movie about.

Though, as mentioned, it’s not like Schindler’s List had a plot either. So maybe it didn’t matter what the general did. At least Schindler seemed novel, though.

The movie also felt mechanical to me the way it tried to cover all bases: some Japanese have drunk the Kool-Aid, others haven’t; some Americans are just nice kids, others shoot prisoners. It should’ve gotten down to business and told a story. Or, lacking a story, shouldn’t have been bothered with.

Can’t believe I’m saying that about a Clint Eastwood movie. Cultural bigot — that’s why.

Fortunately, this movie makes me feel a little more confident in the novel I’m “writing”. At least I’m thinking that there needs to be a story in there. And I’m going to avoid the head-hopping syndrome that seems to creep into war stories (Thin Red Line comes to mind).

Unfortunately, the movie also reinforced the difficulty of telling a war story: battles don’t generally have A Problem, Complications, then a Resolution. They don’t climax — they go hot, then cold for a while, and the closer things get to the end, the more obvious the conclusion gets. Tricky.

But FWIW, I think Guadalcanal has a real story to it. And maybe I can find my exact Japanese counterpart to write that battle from the other side, then we can say we’ve completed a duology of brilliantly written books that explore the depths of the human condition through the crucible of war and that’ll never see the light of day. Because they’re too well written.



(PS, United 93 is still the best movie from 2006 that I’ve seen — and still by a wide margin.)


  • bkdunn

    Oh, and also, can we *stop* de-saturating the color in WWII films? It makes them look like they’re taking place in an old-time fantasy world. When, in fact, the situations being shown were very real. From my reading, I’m understanding that combatants’ senses are considerably heightened before/during/after battle. It seems like the appropriate thing to do, if anything, would be to *saturate* the color.

    *Plus*, I mean, for someone like me, the closest I can get to seeing WWII first-hand like it really might have been is through film. It doesn’t help me get any sort of idea about what it was like when the colors are all washed out. And why hasn’t smell-o-vision caught on yet?!

  • Rahul Kanakia

    Because it seems vaguely relevant, I’m going to mention a book I read awhile back called The Divine Wind by Rikihei Inoguchi, Tadashi Nakajima, and Roger Pineau. It’s an account of the origin and development of kamikaze tactics during World War II. It’s written by someone from the Naval Institute in collaboration with two Japanese military officers (including one who was a part of one of the squadrons, though clearly not a successful part).

    It definitely adds a bit of story to this part of World War II. Furthermore, it definitely puts you in the mindset of those pilots. Considering where Japan’s air force was at that time (around 1944, most pilots sent on an attack could expect not to return, making every mission a suicide mission). It’s told mostly through first-hand accounts and interviews with participants in these squadrons (again, these were mostly volunteers who were left over when the war ended / all the planes broke down).

  • bkdunn

    Sounds cool — I’ll have to check that one out once I get over my ethnocentricity problem. Or sooner. It’s amazing to compare casualty numbers for any of the Pacific battles — it becomes readily apparent that being involved on the Japanese side in any capacity was suicide. Engagements with 10-to-1 (or worse) fatality ratios were pretty common, not to mention all the death by starvation, disease, and dysentery suffered by Japanese forces. It’s easy to mock the Japanese for believing that their “superior fighting spirit” would carry the day when, clearly, it couldn’t. But gosh — their leadership just loved death and didn’t seem to care much who did the dying.

    Tojo = jackass.