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What they say: Set during the time of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Caterpillar tells the story of a Japanese soldier who returns home horrifically mutilated. Liutenant Kurokawa is literally nothing but a human torso: he has lost both his arms and legs, and with burns covering half his face, he is also unable to speak. His wife, Shigeko (Shinobu Terajima), is given the grueling task of looking after him, which, in addition to feeding and washing him, includes the job of satisfying his sexual desires — impulses that remain as strong as ever in spite of his disabled condition. Taught to be dutiful and to do her part for her country, Shigeko bears her burden — but as she realizes that her husband’s life lies entirely in her hands, she begins to question the role she has accepted. A film that won Shinobu Terajima the Silver Bear award for Best Actress at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, Caterpillar is at heart a powerful indictment of Japan’s militaristic, nationalistic past. From acclaimed director Koji Wakamatsu (United Red Army).
What I say: If there ever was a movie that shows the true horrors of war, Caterpillar is it. Lt. Kurokawa returns home from defending the empire during the second Sino-Japanese War severely disabled, his limbs blown off. Though he lost his arms, his face scarred, and the voice and hearing lost, one limb remains active and it’s up to his wife Shigeko to serve the empire by giving in to war hero Kurokawas needs.
Shigeko, in addition to satisfying Kurokawas libido, must do everything for him including washing, feeding, and satisfying his urges which are stronger than ever. She must work harder to support him and her drab life is detailed with unflinching detail in this document of Japans militaristic past. As time goes on she becomes more resentful and starts taking it out on Kurokawa. Meanwhile Kurokawa has his own demons to battle, as the memories of the atrocities he committed in China constantly stream through his mind. Shinobu Terajima is absolutely stunning in her role as the honor bound wife. The range of emotions she show is amazing and she is a phenomenal actress.
This film is a blistering portrait of war and what its fallout means to the people left behind. It’s brutal and uncompromising just like war it’s self.
The film also goes out of its way to show you the Japanese propaganda machine at work. Even going so far as to make the announcements feel like a propaganda film when we hear them. This was a nice touch and one that really made those scenes hit home.
The film is even made to look older than it actually is, using drab colrs and stock footage to highlight this. It makes the film seem like it was filmed in that time. That kind of attention to detail is impressive and appreciated.
This is not a easy film, this is a film that shows how hard lives are affected and you will truly feel for the characters all the up to the tragic ending.