The invading Japanese army has billeted a company in an old fortress in northern China. After heavy fighting, the wounded receive medical attention and will later be transported back from the front line. The company commander sends out a reconnaissance troop to scout the way. In the confusing landscape of reeds and dunes, the five scouts soon come under heavy enemy fire. At first, only one of the men succeeds in making his way back to his own troops … The flashes here come not from swords, but from the points of bayonets and the blades of spades. Cinematographer Saburo Isayama used dark, ‘low-key’ images in an attempt to realistically depict the routine, the dreariness, and later, the full misery of positional warfare. To nonetheless portray the soldiers of the imperial army with the requisite glory, he turns to Hollywood glamour lighting. As Lee Garmes did with star Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932), Isayama gives us close-ups of the protagonists, lit by a 2K light from high above them. To avoid reflections, the tops of their caps were removed and black make-up was used on their faces.
by Tomotaka Tasaka
with Isamu Kosugi, Bontaro Miake, Shiro Izome, Hikaru Hoshi