Political Film Review #634


The recent film Adventures of a Mathematician provides a window into the life of one researcher on the Manhattan Project, which sought to develop an atomic bomb before Nazi Germany. He was obviously unaware that Japan was trying to do the same. Gift of Fire, directed by Hiroshi Kurosaki, depicts how Professor Arakatsu (played by Kasumi Arimura) of Kyoto University, cobbled together a research team, had then exempted from military service, and proceeded to translate Einstein’s E=MC2 into a bomb that would enable Japan to put an end to World War II. The focus is on Osamu Ishimura (Yûya Yagira), nicknamed Shu, a researcher who loves to engage in experimentation and develops solutions to problems encountered as the team rushes toward accomplishing their goal. Shu’s family life is portrayed, including Hiroyuki (Haruma Miura), his older brother in the armed forces, who appears on leave for a short time, nearly commits suicide due to PTSD, and seeks to rejoin the war before the end of his home leave. The quest for the bomb ends when Hiroshima is bombed on August 6, 1945, though Arakatsu has the team collect debris for analysis as the film ends.

What is fascinating about the film is the impact of the war on Japanese. Everyone assigns themselves a different role, which emerges more clearly when the team meets in a bunker; during the conversation disparate comments are made about the war. The dialog suggests that the team failed to build the bomb due to several reasons—power shutdowns, American air raids, frustrations as the war seems lost, and lack of adequate food. Whereas Japanese culture frowns on public display of emotions, anger and even tears emerge on several occasions. Nevertheless, Shu’s sister Setsu (Kasumi Arimura) looks to her role in the postwar future.

The Political Film Society has nominated Gift of Fire for best film raising consciousness of the need for peaceful resolutions of conflict and best film exposé.




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