Warning there may be spoilers in the following text. You have been warned.
Pre Film Consumption
To frame the post I will be writing, first I will present my experience in understanding Japanese monster culture.
From a first look at this article I can understand the basics of Monsters influencing and being a large cultural aspect of Japanese life and in particular media. The site identifies common monsters found in Japanese mythology such as Kappa, a monster child living in a lake or river. This incites memories of the Japanese film Spirited away which features a river monster for a small scene.
The article discusses further the spiritual nature of these monsters and their association with certain events. This is no doubt most prevalent in Godzilla as the well know motif of the Atomic Bomb.
Post Film Consumption
Firstly, I entered the film expecting to be bored to tears. I assumed that my attraction to modern films with large budgets and extensive special effects. But this film blew these preconceived conceptions right out the door within the first ten minutes. I have mentioned previously that my attention span has been limited when having to read subtitles rather than English speaking films, however this was quite the opposite. The film itself is black and white and subtitled, again, this is quite out of my comfort zone
The film opens with the immense display of power unleashed by an atomic bomb
First thing I notice is that the film delves right into the action rather than a slow advance. It doesn’t conform itself to the modern story arc, in a way this film could be considered fast paced. This is an important aspect as it begs the question, “is this a common theme in Japanese film, monster films or is it lending a hand to the age of the film?” I guess this question may be answered as I continue my research.
Rapid scenes uphold this swift advancement through the plot, there is no wasted time in this film, pauses are dramatic and speeches are intense. Unlike modern Godzilla films there are not minute long scenes of the main characters wasting time. For me, this is most exemplified by a scene roughly one third of the way through the film where Kyohei is pleading his case about Gozilla to a local court. The scene essentially goes like this:
- Kyohei presenting his case
- Scientific evidence from kyohei
- An argument between a man and a woman (this will be discussed later)
- Conclusion of case.
That is it. Quick snaps. No wasted time.
Now I am not entirely certain why I was drawn to this but I believe it is significant as an idea within Japanese film.
I could ramble on for days about the metaphorical significance of Godzilla and the oxygen destroyer, and although it is a very important aspect of the story itself, it is not so significant from an auto ethnographical standpoint, however it does have on important aspect.
Post POST film consumption.
So now comes the reflection.
You may remember me saying previously that Japanese monsters are often created during times of Japanese hardship. Now strap in kids this may just blow your mind. Godzilla, the monster, was created as a means of representing the atomic blasts. Shocking right?
As mentioned previously, metaphors and symbolism are huge aspects of the film. Godzilla himself (well at least from my interpretation) is a metaphor for America and in particular it’s access to the most destructive weapon ever seen, the atomic bomb. Now radioactivity is already a huge part of the film, however the relevance lies within the United States dropping Atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The common battle between destruction or preservation of the two giant ‘weapons’ (in Godzilla and the oxygen destroyer) lends itself to post war Japanese attitudes towards weapons of destruction. The film provides a social commentary on the struggles faced by Japanese citizens.
Thereby this film is arguably one of the best commentaries on coping with and taking responsibility for man-made tragedies. From the metaphorical Godzilla to the literal oxygen destroyer this film deals with post war attitudes towards nuclear power, from its most prominent victims.
That really important and significant aspect of the film I described earlier, the speed, pacing and waste-no-time nature of the film reminded me of something. When I take a step back and look at the film objectively and from afar a picture is painted. To me, the film seems to be thrown together as if it were a small child recounting the story.
The film is almost exactly like this:
“First, you see Godzilla and then he comes to the town, and then the people find his foot prints, and then they find out his is radioactive and then they go to a court and then they argue and then… and then … and then…”
There really are no pauses; it just keeps on spewing out information. Like an excited child.
Essentially, the film holds a mirror to Japanese culture, through the use of Godzilla the monster as a means of communicating past. Congruently the role of men and women are represented with males being dominant and females submissive, this I feel is not strictly representative of Japanese culture rather it reminded me of the general gender inequalities of the 1950’s.
On a personal level, I’ll be honest I had low expectations coming into this movie, my previous encounters with foreign language films has been… lacking, not to mention I usually don’t watch anything made prior to about 1985. But I was pleasantly surprised besides the points I have mentioned I cannot really further explain why I like this film I just do.
You should go watch it.