Shinoda and Iwashita Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Movie Experience: Conversation with director Masahiro Shinoda and actress Shima Iwashita; 2/27/99 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

Page 2 of 5

Shinoda on Directing

What is distinctive about movies as an art form, Ms. Iwashita?

I consider it as an art form that requires the unity among all the people participating. You need, of course, the director, the art people, the music, the lights, the camera, and actors as well. If any one of these people is not doing their job then we cannot have a good film. Of course, the one at the pinnacle is the film director.

As a director, Mr. Shinoda, you have chosen to work very often with historical materials. Again and again you seem to deal with an epoch in decline and the conflicts and difficulties encountered by the main character as he deals with that epoch. Did your youth and the period of your youth lead to this fascination with this particular kind of epoch?

I think that the shock I received when my elder sister died when I was ten years old was the first personal knowledge I had that people die. And since the conditions were very bad in wartime I lost two other older sisters in the wartime and right after the war to tuberculosis as well. This really brought home to me the ephemeral nature of life, the vanity of life, the lack of meaning that might be seen in life.

Those were very close to me, personal events that happened in my own life. But during the war I lived in the spirit that I would die for the emperor because the emperor was a god. When after the war, when it was announced the emperor was no longer a god, he was just a human being, it was a great shock to me and I felt that all the gods who had lived in Japan had all become mortal rather than being gods. Of course, this threw me into great despair. But then it led me to have a curiosity about dealing with this type of theme afterwards -- that perhaps people become gods, gods may crash down and become people. So that kind of fluidity is something that became of interest to me as a fifteen-year-old boy.

There is a famous photograph of General MacArthur standing with the emperor and that made it absolutely clear that the emperor was no longer a god, and also it was obvious that that was conscious effort on the part of the Occupation to make that statement. And that was one of the reasons that the English title for the film was called MacArthur's Children. They were no longer the emperor's children.

What came to me was that rather than the victors, it was the vanquished, the Japanese who had lost the war, who would be able to see more clearly the truth in things.

I think that is one of the main reasons that the main characters in my films are those who are on the losing side, or the vanquished side.

Do you believe cinema plays a role in the moral education of the audience?

I think it has a great role in that regard, but I don't think it is something that will last very long. But I think people can learn about the various types of evil from what happens in films and that is a very strong impression that the audience receives from viewing films.

Next page: Iwashita on Acting

© Copyright 1999, Regents of the University of California