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Friday, April 13, 2012

Museum to screen alternate version of Nazi film from Japan

Staff writer

With both Japanese and German directors in charge, the film "Atarashiki Tsuchi (Die Tochter des Samurai)" sparked an international sensation when it first hit theaters in 1937. Such is its historical and cultural importance that, after a 75-year hiatus, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography began screening the film again on April 7.

News photo
Classic scene: Setsuko Hara stars in "Atarashiki Tsuchi." © MATTHIAS FANCK

The film stars a 16-year-old Setsuko Hara, who was still a fledgling actress when she was approached by German director Arnold Fanck. The role helped make her famous.

Shot completely in Japan, the film offers viewers a glimpse of the country's cultural peculiarities. It tackles the theme of iinazuke (a now obsolete custom equivalent to a betrothal) and highlights the emotional struggle involving a young couple, Mitsuko (Hara) and Teruo (Isamu Kosugi). After spending time in Europe, Teruo returns to Japan a Westernized man. He can no longer reconcile himself to the idea of a prearranged marriage with Mitsuko. Out of despair, Mitsuko sets out to throw herself into a volcano.

There are some intriguing anecdotes relating to the film that have contributed to its popularity. Some believe the film was designed to mitigate the German public's view of the Japanese, who, under the Nazi doctrine of Aryan supremacy, had been considered racially inferior. A year before its release, the Nazi regime allied with Japan via the Anti-Comintern Pact.

Another story is that during the shooting, Japanese director Mansaku Itami and Fanck are said to have clashed with each other over the difference of their interpretation of Japanese culture. This altercation prompted them to work separately, ultimately leading to the creation of two different versions of the same film.

The museum will screen the Fanck-directed version of the film for the most part, but on April 27 it will host a one-time screening of the Itami version instead.

"Atarashiki Tsuchi" will be screened at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. Tickets are ¥1,500. For details, call (03) 3486-6881 or visit www.syabi.com/contents/exhibition/movie-1634.html

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