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Legendary helmer Kaneto Shindo sends anti-war ‘Postcard’ for career capper

TOKYO (TR) – The last film for 98-year-old director Kaneto Shindo does not deviate from a theme often repeated over his six decades in the business: Under no circumstances is war justified.

“Postcard,” scheduled to be released domestically this summer, is a tale of love and death during World War II.

“When a soldier dies, we won’t realize that his wife becomes a widow and her life thereafter is ruined,” said Shindo at a press luncheon at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan last month. “In regular life, you do not kill another person. But in war, it is an honorable thing.”

Written by Shindo, the film begins near the end of the war and focuses on a soldier, Sadazo (Naomasa Musaka), and his wife Tomoko (Shinobu Otake). Just before Sadazo is set to depart for the Philippines, he receives a postcard from her. Very moved by the gesture, he writes a response and passes it to another soldier (Etsushi Toyokawa) to deliver to her by hand.

“Postcard,” which was filmed as Shindo moved around in a wheelchair, draws upon the helmer’s experiences and adds touches of fiction. The Hiroshima native was 32 when he was drafted. Along with 99 other soldiers, he served as a janitor at a fighter-pilot training facility in Nara Prefecture.

Through a lottery system, groups of these 100 soldiers were methodically shipped out for battle. But they all found themselves victims of attacks from the United States military. In the end, six men remained, with Shindo being one of them.

“We were lucky that we didn’t have to go into combat,” he said. “But as time went by, it was not enough to just feel lucky. Our lives today have been built on the 94 lives that were sacrificed. So we did have this sense of guilt.”

Shindo, who worked with famed helmer Kenji Mizoguchi, has used that remorse as motivation to make 49 films. Among them are “Children of Hiroshima,” the 1952 look at life after the atomic bomb, and “The Naked Island” (1962), a family’s story of suffering in isolation.

At the 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival, “Postcard” received the Special Jury Prize. It will screen in New York in April.

Shindo hopes that the young people of Japan will watch the film. “The younger generation of Japan does not have any experience in war,” he said. “They have not fully grasped how atrocious it is, nor the truth of what war is. So I think it is our obligation, as the older generation, to convey what is behind war, what is the truth of war.”

The ending of “Postcard” is intended to provide hope. “It is not a simple happy ending,” he said. “I wanted to show that even if people go through the most unbearable experiences they can still have the willpower to stand up again. I am now 98, and I went through this yet I am well — that is what I wanted to depict: the power of the human spirit.”

“Postcard” will be released by Tokyo Theaters on August 3.