Postcard marks the final film of the late, great Kaneto Shindo, who died in May at the age of 100, and one could make a case that he couldn’t have gone out on a more graceful and dignified note. After a prolific 60-year career that produced nearly 50 directorial efforts, including such early classics as Children of Hiroshima (1952), The Naked Island (1960), Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968), the legendary Japanese filmmaker made his swan song with a quiet indictment on war that nonetheless shimmers with admittedly dark humour and a movingly staunch belief in humanity.
Drawing upon his own experience as a survivor of World War II, where the writer-director went through a similar incident while serving in the imperial navy, Postcard tells of the converging destinies of two victims of war. Keita Matsuyama (Etsushi Toyokawa), like Shindo himself, is one of only six survivors in a 100-man unit in the Japanese army, and is consumed with guilt after escaping death by a mere stroke of luck (he was kept far away from the frontline as a result of drawing lots). Tomoko Morikawa (Shinobu Ohtake), once happily married in spite of the financial hardship she’s hopelessly entrenched in, is faced with one death after another in her immediate family – her farmer husband, his younger brother (who also briefly becomes her husband), and her parents-in-law – until she’s the only member left behind.
The two are presented with the flimsiest of connections when Keita is given Tomoko’s postcard by her first husband (Naomasa Musaka), a fellow soldier expecting certain demise, during the war; what results between the pair of tortured souls is an unlikely post-war romance, at once violent and desperate, which may well be seen as a mutual – and equally intense – healing process of their respective psychological wounds. As their fury towards the absurdity of war ultimately reaches a cathartic conclusion of hope and rebirth, Shindo’s deeply personal anti-war melodrama speaks as intimately to the 94 dead as it does the war survivors – all presumably random by nature.
Dir Kaneto Shindo, category IIB, 114 mins, opens on June 28