Gory cannibalism movie shocks film fest

Director Shinya Tsukamoto arrives for the screening of Nobi (Fires on the Plain) at Venice Film Festival. Photo/AP
Director Shinya Tsukamoto arrives for the screening of Nobi (Fires on the Plain) at Venice Film Festival. Photo/AP

Cannibalism, maggots devouring rotting flesh and one soldier's desperate bid to cling to humanity in the chaos: Japanese war film Fires on the Plain has both thrilled and shocked Venice film festival.

Cult director Shinya Tsukamoto, renowned for horror movies such as Hiruko the Goblin and Tetsuo: The Iron Man, has remade Kon Ichikawa's 1959 classic about defeated Japanese troops in the Philippines at the end of World War II.

Here, however, the Japanese Cyberpunk master has ratcheted up the gore several notches to create a claustrophobic nightmare of explosions and spilt innards.

Tsukamoto plays lead character Private Tamura, who - abandoned by his platoon because he suffers from tuberculosis - wanders through the jungle, where decaying bodies litter the earth and fellow survivors end up on the menu.

The director told journalists at the world's oldest film festival that he had wanted to make the film to show "the idiocy of war, of senseless deaths".

"I didn't decide to make it based on what is going on in the world today, I already had the project in mind 20 years ago," he said.

"But rather than base it on my experiences of war films, I wanted to find out more about those who survived this tragedy in real life, what they thought, how they felt pain that it's not possible for us to imagine," he said.

"Now was the right moment to make the film because most of the survivors are dead, but Japan needs to remember what happened," he said.

The movie, in competition for the Golden Lion award, sparked enthusiastic applause from some critics, though a steady stream of viewers left the room during the screening, many looking rather green around the gills.

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