New Book Published

A Dream of Resistance: The Cinema of Kobayashi Masaki



This is the first book in English covering Kobayashi’s life and career and examining all of his films.  Celebrated internationally as one of Japan’s greatest filmmakers, Kobayashi was a pacifist drafted into the army during World War II.  He survived the carnage to become a filmmaker challenging authority as no-one else did and making films that were scorching depictions of the nation’s military heritage.

My book draws on previously untranslated interviews and writings by Kobayashi, which include the diary he kept in wartime while he was stationed on Miyakojima island.

sons' youthChapter One examines his childhood, his tutelage under Professor Aizu Yaichi at Waseda University, his experiences in war, and the first period of his career as a filmmaker, training under Kinoshita Keisuke at Shochiku studio.  The films examined in this chapter include My Sons’ Youth (Musuko no seishun, 1952), Sincerity (Magakoro, 1953), The Three Loves (Mittsu no ai, 1954), Somewhere Under the Broad Sky (Kono hiroi sora no dokoka ni, 1954),Beautiful Days (Uruwashiki saigetsu, 1955), and The Fountain (Izumi, 1956).

thick wallChapter Two examines his emergence as an artistically independent and defiant commentator on the war and its legacy, which included the war crimes trials of Japanese soldiers and the stationing of U.S. military bases on Japanese soil during the Cold War.  Films discussed include The Thick-Walled Room (Kabe atsuki heya, 1956), I Will Buy You (Anata kaimasu, 1956), and Black River (Kuroi kawa, 1957).


human conditionChapter Three explores Kobayashi’s magnum opus, the nine-and-a-half hour trilogy The Human Condition (Ningen no joken, 1959-61).  Kobayashi felt a deep connection to the story of Kaji, a university graduate who is conscripted into Japan’s army in Manchuria and who struggles to retain his humane principles amid the brutality of war.  In many ways, this was Kobayashi’s own story.  Upon its release, the trilogy became one of the powerful, paradigmatic expressions of postwar humanism in Japanese cinema and culture, and it is recognized as one of the greatest Japanese movies ever made.  It launched Kobayashi on the pinnacle of his career.

hoichiChapter Four examines Kobayashi’s work in period films and the onset of his fruitful collaboration with renowned composer Takemitsu Toru, which transformed his work.  Takemitsu’s experimental approach to music helped Kobayashi to achieve a new synesthesia of image and sound and a filmic style of heightened precision and clarity.  Their collaborations explored in this chapter are The Inheritance (Karami-ai, 1962), Harakiri (Seppuku, 1962), Kwaidan (Kaidan, 1964), Samurai Rebellion (Joi-uchi: Hairyo tsuma shimatsu, 1967), and We Who Give Our Lives for Nothing (Inochi bo ni furo, 1971).

murojiChapter Five finds Kobayashi as a gypsy filmmaker continuing to work amid the break-up of the studios and the golden age of filmmaking they had sustained.  His work in this final period included an epic documentary, a late-career masterpiece made for television, and a heart-felt tribute to his mentor, Aizu Yaichi.  The films explored are Youth of Japan (Nihon no seishun, 1968), The Fossil (Kaseki, 1975), Glowing Autumn (Moeru aki, 1979), Tokyo Trial (Tokyo saiban, 1983), The Empty Table (Shokutaku no nai ie, 1985), and The World of Aizu Yaichi: The Buddhas of Nara (Aizu Yaichi no sekai: Nara no hotoke-tachi, 1996).

A Dream of Resistance is published by Rutgers University Press and is available through Amazon.