ERISA TAKEDA WRITES – Despite claims from the Right that the film lacked credibility, would hurt U.S.-Japanese relations, and put the country in a bad light, Angelina Jolie’s biopic “Unbroken” opened in Japan without incident February 6.
Released under the title “A Man of Fortitude” — a direct translation of the book on which the story was based — the movie chronicles Louis Zamperini, an Olympic long-distance runner from Torrance, CA who survives torture in a Japanese POW camp in World War II. It was released in much of the rest of the world shortly after Zamperini’s death in 2014.
Surrounding the release, Tatsuya Mori, a documentary filmmaker, opined that the “film drew much more of a backlash in Japan than it should have just because it was directed by a foreign filmmaker,” and that “the situation casts a light on the essential problems of Japanese society.”
Others, like Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University, argued that because the book was written as an autobiography, it should be regarded as a “novel,” since “the book and the film both unnecessarily stress violent events by the Japanese military.” His point was that atrocities were committed on all sides during the war, not just by the Japanese.
In this respect, Shimada is right. Atrocities are committed by all armies, whether people like to admit it or not; and depending on which side you stand on you have a different perspective, thus the separation of perspectives in history.
But to call Zamperini’s book a “novel” is to undermine and refute his narrative. Perhaps, the “essential problem” in the modern Japanese society, especially among nationalists, is that they are so dogmatic about their own truth that they cannot accept others’ truths and narratives.
In general, the movie received positive reviews from most Japanese audiences. One intensely interested viewer was a member of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, Katsuyuki Miyata, who explained his fondness for the movie by simply stating, although he had “heard it was an anti-Japanese movie, it was [still] a good movie.”