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Clint's Double Take

2006.03.11 22:26|[N]映画・硫黄島からの手紙

節錄TIME Online Edition Oct. 24, 2005

He (Eastwood) has not often attempted fact-based movies, and he had never undertaken one that contained such huge combat scenes. He began to read more widely and deeply on the subject. And he began talking to both American and Japanese veterans of Iwo Jima, which remains the bloodiest engagement in Marine Corps history and the one for which the most Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded (27). As for the Japanese, only about 200 out of 22,000 defending soldiers survived. At some point in his research, Eastwood realized that he had to find a way to tell both sides of the story--"not in the Tora! Tora! Tora! way, where you cut back and forth between the two sides," he says, "but as separate films."

Taken together, the two screenplays show that the battle of Iwo Jima--and by implication, the whole war in the Pacific--was not just a clash of arms but a clash of cultures. The Japanese officer class, imbued with the quasi-religious fervor of their Bushido code, believed that surrender was dishonor, that they were all obliged to die in defense of their small island. That, of course, was not true of the attacking Americans. As Eastwood puts it, "They knew they were going into harm's way, but you can't tell an American he's absolutely fated to die. He will work hard to get the job done, but he'll also work hard to stay alive." And to protect his comrades-in-arms. As Haggis' script puts it, the Americans "may have fought for their country, but they died for their friends, for the man in front, for the man beside 'em."

Yamashita's script is much more relentlessly cruel. In essence, the Japanese officers compelled the bravery (and suicide) of their troops at gunpoint. Only the Japanese commander, Lieut. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (a mysterious historical figure who fascinates Eastwood), and a fictional conscript, Saigo, whose fate Yamashita intertwines with his commanding officer's, demonstrate anything like humanity as a Westerner might understand it. The lieutenant general, educated in part in the U.S., is respectful of its national spirit (and industrial might) and believes that a live soldier, capable of carrying on the fight, is infinitely more valuable than a dead one enjoying an honorable afterlife. Thanks to his preservationist tactics, a battle that was supposed to last five days consumed almost 40, though honor demanded his suicide in the end. Saigo, who, as Eastwood says, "wants what most human beings want" (a peaceful life with friends and family), meets an unexpected fate.