Quick-Thoughts: Masaki Kobayashi’s The Human Condition III (1961)

Masaki Kobayashi Marathon Part III of V

Fun fact: Ford Coppola, Kurosawa, and Kobayashi are currently the only directors who have TWO 4.5/5 rated movies on letterboxd — well, The Godfather has a 4.6/5 but close enough. Point being, The Human Condition III happens to be one of these 4.5/5s.

Woah, this is possibly the most pessimistic movie I’ve ever witnessed. Then, I remembered Come and See exists… speaking of Come and See, the third chapter of The Human Condition series reminded me a lot of it. The narrative in this coda to the trilogy essentially comes down to our protagonist Kaji making his way across foreign grounds after surviving a merciless battle. Along with him is an ever-changing group of other war survivors who either bring wisdom or conflict into the mix. 

In cases like this, where one walks primarily on a path of the wilderness, thousands of miles from home, it can be inferred that morality is likely to slip day by day, and the natural instincts of the “animal” are to begin taking prime control. A character such as Kaji who has proven countless times of trying his very best though when it comes to inhabiting justice despite being in the raunchiest of situations, is about to face his greatest dilemma yet, again: unavoidable, constant failure.

An “aggressive meditation” is the closest manner I can put this sequel into words even if it sounds pretty contradicting. To clear the air, it’s an “aggressive meditation” on what keeps us going and what makes us fall; what thoughts and hopes force us to walk through pointless hell for days and days; what lengths we’re willing to go through to still inflict “reason” onto others even in states of attempting to just barely survive. We see these perspectives though in a kind of sad fashion, as these motivators are never paid off, and the constant fight for life just ends up appearing foolish. This entire franchise has done it’s very hardest to be vague as f**k in terms of what it exactly means, so this should just be seen as trivial to what the venture signifies as a whole. However, these factors are undoubtedly there, and they’re there to really make you rationalize on why we choose to dick around with things like “duty” or “vengeance” even in the most menacing of times, and what exactly that says when it comes to the influence of our mentality versus our bodily needs. 

With the immeasurable amounts of innocent death tolls, an even greedier eye into the lust of men, and the triggering gaps in superiority positions between characters, The Human Condition III: A Soldier’s Prayer shows no mercy in pleading to you how designed for chaos war will always be and how the good in us is to rarely be shown so long as we continue to indulge in the sinful leeways it gains us <OR> shows no mercy in pleading to you how new, open-minded virtues often stand as boundaries to practicality or are simply never tended to in the darkness of war and that’s why war f**king sucks? 

But, probably the more accurate interpretation of this entire 10 hour franchise if there even is a dead center meaning to the cuckoo: we as humans will forever contradict morality as long as it benefits our current condition, especially with war but even with no war, because morality is but a slice of instinct. There will be that rare “Kaji” though who is strong willed enough to not give into these temptations immediately or maybe any soldier who would die for their country, sure, but in the end, when we do live under the rules of war, does it even matter whether we die for morality, die of sin? According to this cinematic concluder, when we die… jeez… we just die. What is the point of soldiers having their own principled codes, their own principled identities, when war, tyranny, totalitarianism, and fascism can’t allow them to be heard? 

Oh, so Kobayashi is definitely a leftist. In the movie, he even seems to be painting Russia’s communist ideologies as if they’re more favorable than his own country’s. *Researching* …considered himself to be a Pacifist and a Socialist… Ohhhh… Duh.

Verdict: A+

Deconstructing Traditions (Masaki Kobayashi Ranked), My Favorite Movies of All-Time

“The Human Condition III” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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