Existentialism, Choice, and Morality in Ichikawa Kon’s Fires on the Plain

Robert Catherall

Abstract


In this essay I explain how the protagonist of Ichikawa Kon's film Fires on the Plain, Tamura, embodies the essence of humanism. The story portrays the development of an unassuming army private as he refuses to accept the fate his superiors have chosen for him. For Tamura, the ability to determine his own actions becomes his resolve. He achieves this by acknowledging the power of choice within himself, a fundamental notion of humanism that he develops throughout the film. In this paper I propose that the character of Tamura, through his personal decision making, is a living allegory for humanism. To support this thesis, I cite specific scenes in the film that reflect the protagonist's evolution from dogmatist to humanist and link them with their corresponding elements of humanism. In conclusion, I find that Tamura effectively represents the functionality of humanism as defined by a selection of modern thinkers.


Keywords


Japanese Cinema; Ichikawa Kon; Kon Ichikawa; Nobi; Fires On The Plain; Existentialism; Humanism;

References


Battersby, James L. “The Inescapability of Humanism.” College English 58.5 (1996): 555-567.

Camus, Arthur. The Myth of Sisyphus. Translated by Justin O’Brien. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes From Underground. Translated by Michael Katz. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1989.

Hoenigswald, Richard. “On Humanism.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 9.1 (1948): 41-50.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Existentialism is a Humanism.” From Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre, ed. Walter Kaufman. Meridian Publishing Company, 1989. Accessed 15 October 2010. http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre.htm.


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