13 January 2018 | manfromplanetx
aka Fireflies in the North
Kita no hotaru is an icy cold drama it opens with a narration, a brief historical background accompanied with original photos, the foundations of this fascinating tale. The story setting is the frigid untamed wilderness of Hokkaido during the early days of the Meiji era 1868-1912.
This is a Hideo Gosha film , typical a dizzying mixture of history, politics, brutality, sexuality, romance, and bloody violence. Beautifully filmed, skilfully stylish, Gosha masterly blends all of these elements to create a compelling action packed historical drama.
Nakadai Tatsuya stars in a brilliant lead performance as Kiyoshi Tsukigata who in real life was the first warden of Kabato Prison 1881, It was here at this remote outpost that a prisoner rebellion broke out, brought on by the endless abuse & mistreatment. The Japanese government had established a European-style civil police system in 1874, and began using political prisoners as slave labour, many of the men came from former samurai clans now outlawed. Rounded up from prisons across the country the prisoner workforce was critical for building infrastructure roads/railroads to open up the snowbound wilds. The prisoners suffered a terrible fate in the harsh conditions, there was a heavy death toll among them.
There is a polished gleam to this production, very 1984, missing is that gritty raw edge of his earlier masterpieces eg
Hitokiri (1969), however no way is this a detraction,. Kita no hotaru is a tense action packed adventure, a thought provoking twisting tale of intrigue and passion loyalty and honour, it is enthralling cinema, superior artistry, nothing less from the Japanese master Hideo Gosha..