In the middle of the wilderness of a deserted island, an old man roams with his rifle at the ready and a green camouflage on his back. In a meadow, the oddball lays down two acacia blossoms, while we hear an old Japanese folk song.
The year is 1974. And Lieutenant Hirō Onoda believes that World War II is still ongoing, that his country is still fighting the Americans. This is how the gripping drama "Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle" begins, which will be shown on Arte this Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. and will be available in the media library until August 29, 2023.
In two and a half hours that is never boring, director Arthur Harari, born in Paris in 1981, tells the incredible but factual story of a man who survives for 30 years on a tropical island in the jungle and simply does not want to believe that the war is long over.
In its final phase in 1944, the young Japanese lieutenant Onoda was actually supposed to be used as a pilot, perhaps even as a kamikaze pilot. But his fear of heights ruins the plan. Instead, Onoda is recruited into an elite force by an ambitious major. “Your body is the fatherland”, this martial motto is injected into him by his superior and he trains Onoda in the art of “secret warfare”.
When the lieutenant was supposed to organize resistance against the Americans on the Philippine island of Lubang in 1944, the war was almost lost for the Japanese. Onoda retreats into the mountains with three followers to attack the enemy as a mobile guerrilla unit. But he never shows up, the war is over. Just not in the mind of Onoda.
This unusually exciting film, which at times comes across as a chamber play, vividly sketches the psychogram of a fighter who is waging his own private campaign. Onoda proves to be a caring superior who cares about the well-being of his people. But there are fewer and fewer: After years in the jungle, only his deputy Kozuka remains loyal to him. They vegetate on the island like two Robinsons, go swimming in the sea for the first time in years, finally own a small radio and are fascinated by the reports of the moon landing in 1969.
In addition to these moments, there are also scenes of violence and paranoia: the deafening jungle, the loneliness and the week-long monsoon rain give birth to monsters. Arthur Hirara's drama, presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021, vividly shows how military drill deforms the consciousness of soldiers and atrophies every human emotion: there is always war in the head. In our current situation, this haunting message is once again frighteningly topical.
from dpa.infocom 2023