In the past I’ve probably been unfair to Andrei Tarkovsky in thinking there wasn’t much to his films beyond grinding slowness. I’d like to think I’ve been similarly unfair to Alexander Sokurov, who seems so determined to be the next Tarkovsky, but whose films (that I’ve seen so far) do seem to be most about grinding slowness… This is the third film in a tetralogy, united as Sokurov says in the note on the DVD by “the depiction of the hero who suffers a personal tragedy”. That’s an interesting use of the word “hero”, given that this film is about the Japanese emperor Hirohito and the previous two films had been about Hitler and Lenin, but we’ll let it pass… One key difference between this and Mother and Son is that, whatever else could be said about the latter, it was nice and interesting to look at. This could not be said about The Sun, which was shot on digital video, fiddled with and transferred to 35mm, and frequently looks hideous as a result, shitty colours and digital noise all over the place. As for Hirohito, we see him at the end of the war and of his own divinity, which he seems quite pleased to renounce, and Issey Ogata plays him nicely, I suppose, but I rarely felt any sort of insight emanating from the film. At the end Hirohito is hurt by the news that the young man who recorded his historic surrender speech committed suicide, which squares oddly with the real Hirohito encouraging the entire Japanese nation to do just that if the Americans invaded. There’s a sense of Hirohito not really being there, somehow, not really connected to the world or the war around him, and I will confess to not really being 100% sure of what exactly Sokurov wanted us to take away from the film. A rather frustrating, somewhat empty experience.
The Sun (2005)