During one of my business trip to HQ in Kuala Lumpur, I had to stay at a posh hotel at One Utama, rather than my usual hotel around KLCC area. Time was moving rather slowly on those days despite an upscale shopping center on the ground floor. Fiddling with TV remote control to kill time, I came across one movie playing on StarMovies. It was “Letters from Iwo Jima” directed by Clint Eastwood, my favorite movie director. I heard about this movie but never watched it before. I watched his other Oscar-winning movies such as Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. Mr Eastwood was a man with a message. He delivered his messages through movies and only thinking men and women and and of course Oscar Award reviewers can catch that message and appreciated it.
Lets go back to this movie.
It was about a loyal Japanese Imperial Army General Kuribayashi, leading his army in defending an island of paramount interest to the Japan motherland during WWII.
General Kuribayashi led the Imperial Army and was based on Iwo Jima island. When the defeat was imminent, he secretly wrote letters to his wife Yoshi. Young soldier, Nozaki, discovered the letters later when he was instructed to destroy all the documents at the command center but he hid them instead rather than burning them all. The letters were discovered long after the war, thus the name of the movie.
Nozaki was a naive and simple man. He was a baker before joining the Imperial Army. He was drafted against his will and never was a soldier at heart. He just got married and the wife was pregnant when the call to join the Army came to his hometown. He had this conversation with his wife before leaving to serve the Emperor.
“What am I going to do when you are dead?”. The wife was so worried.
“I am not in the coffin yet!”
“Those men never came back. Not even their souls.”
“I am coming back for our child” Nozaki said confidently.
There is another character in this movie resembling Nozaki. Another young soldier just graduated from prestigous military college, was sent to the Iwo Jima after he did not execute simple order from his superior to shoot the dog which made a noise in the neighborhood while on duty on the mainland.
These are all simple and naïve characters in this movie with loving heart.
Quite unpopular a decision, General Kuribayashi replaced an experienced Admiral Ichimaru with a young Lieutenant Nishi from Cavalry unit who attached more importance to his well-bred horse rather than the grim reality of war.
Some of General Kuribayashi’s famous inspirational words to his army:
“One must kills 10 enemy soldiers. Don’t expect to come home alive. Long live the Emperor.”
“If this island falls Americans will use it as a base to attack homeland. We will defend this island at whatever price.”
1. Loyalty pays sometimes.
2. You are what you choose to be.