Cannes 2021: Onoda is a real shock [critique]

Arthur Harari’s film is shown today at Un Certain Regard.

Onoda, 10,000 nights in the jungle is an adventure and survival film, inspired by the true story of a Japanese soldier refusing to believe that the Pacific War is over. A real shock.

To those who would see French cinema indecently turned towards its small navel, signals sometimes come to open up horizons. In 2016, Arthur Harari thus signed with Black Diamond a thriller set in the middle of the diamond dealers in Antwerp. The filmmaker goes further here. In this case, on a Pacific island in 1944, tracing the thread of an extraordinary adventure, until 1974. Thirty years of the life in parentheses of Hiroo Onoda, Japanese soldier stationed in Lubang in the Philippines who refused to accept the end of World War II and the surrender of his country. The man enlisted two poor fellows and lived far from the world, awaiting hypothetical orders from his superiors. From the history of these “stragglers” (the Japanese army would have counted nearly 130), Josef von Sternberg had signed the very beautiful Fever on Anatahan in 1952, where a female figure crystallized the passions of desperate soldiers. Harari’s film, drier and more distant, watches his anti-hero cling to his own reality, which is also that of the film to the end. Because apart from a first part which advances from airlock to temporal airlock towards Onoda, the story will gradually shed any narrative ornament to live this abnegation in the present. The precise staging manages to play with the mystery of an unfathomable being but whose stubbornness, as absurd as it is, has everything of a sacrificial quest. Onoda is a survival and adventure film, also Japanese in the purity it exudes. A film by Arthur Harari above all, in which we find this formidable ability to become one with his character.

Nicolas Anthomé: “We have long been certified that Onoda was infeasible”

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