Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s new feature film Les Lovers Sacrificed is a spy tale set against the backdrop of horrific war crimes committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Back to the true story.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT ?
Les Amants sacrifiés, a new feature film by maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa, takes us to Kobe in 1941. Yusaku and his wife Satoko live as a modern and fulfilled couple, far from the growing tension between Japan and the West. But after a trip to Manchuria, Yusaku begins to act strangely… to the point of attracting suspicion from his wife and the authorities. What is he hiding from them? And how far is Satoko willing to go to find out?
A TRUE SORDID STORY
“Although set in 1940s Japan, the film seems all the more relevant to me today with the pandemic, shaken as we are by all kinds of protests and trade wars, we are fighting not to lose our minds. “ explains the director. Awarded the Silver Lion for Best Directing at the 2020 Venice Film Festival, this new work by the Japanese Master confronts us more than ever with the paradox of being human.
Indeed, this story written Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive my Car, Senses) has its roots in the heart of a horrific true story that took place during the Second World War. First of all, it should be noted that this is the first historical film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, known for his propensity to film the mystery and the strange (Cure, Kaïro, Le Secret de la chambre noire, Vers autre bank).
“The chronology and the events of this period being recorded, I had to project myself with all the more rigor in my subject, until imagining the internal dilemmas that people must have experienced when considering their future in the face of war. It’s not the same job as when you invent a whole universe, which doesn’t have to be believable.
What turned out to be the most difficult was to document the activities of the Japanese army in Manchuria. There are indeed not many traces of this period. The Japanese are not so much interested in understanding and studying their past… So we had to recreate some scenes by ourselves “, specifies the director.
WHAT IS UNIT 731?
If the Japanese do not look at this precise past, it is because it turns out to be of rare violence. Japanese expansion in eastern Asia began in 1931 with the invasion of Manchuria, a Chinese province mentioned in Les Lants sacrifiés. Created between 1932 and 1933 by imperial mandate, Unit 731 was there a military faction of bacteriological research of the Imperial Japanese Army.
This group was led by Shirō Ishii and brought together around a hundred researchers. Officially, he was dedicated to “epidemic prevention and water purification”. In fact, the unit was carrying out experiments on human guinea pigs and researching various diseases. The aim was to use them as bacteriological weapons.
The experiments carried out in Manchoukouo (name of Manchuria under Japanese domination) claimed between 300,000 and 480,000 victims. The Japanese state did not recognize its existence until 2002. Unit 731 is now found responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
This dark episode in the History of the Land of the Rising Sun is still an almost taboo subject today. By tackling this inglorious story about the Japanese Army, Kiyoshi Kurosawa breaks a certain omerta, performing a necessary work of memory through a spy story.
THE SENSE OF SACRIFICE
“It was complicated to give a creative and personal perspective on the past. With historical facts frozen in place, giving your own take on a part of history is almost a burden. I couldn’t afford to be careless. But I started from the principle that it was necessary above all to make this film for the pleasure, not to express my political point of view “, specifies the filmmaker.
For Kurosawa, the war is certainly a backdrop to this narrative, which does not deny the involvement of Japan in many acts of violence committed abroad – Manchuria, in this specific case.
“But what I especially wanted to show was the way in which the two protagonists engaged in a struggle with their emotions, as soon as they discovered the ruthless acts committed by their country. This led them to reverse the meaning of their existence, to make a final decision, in the name of their justice. In any case, a sacrifice had to be made: oneself or one’s homeland. War is above all psychological. Everyone, by default, loses something precious in the war “, concludes the director.