Forming the third part of director Alexander Sokurov's planned tetralogy (the first two parts, Moloch And Taurus, featured Hitler and Lenin respectively), The Sun could also be a companion piece to Downfall as it delivers an intimate portrait of another key player in World War Two, Japan's Emperor Hirohito. Issey Ogata's minimalist performance shows not the living god that Japanese troops were prepared to die for, but an isolated man haunted by the horrific destruction inflicted upon his country.
The historic meetings between Hirohito and commander of the American forces General Douglas McArthur form the core of the film, during which McArthur tries to understand the complex position the Emperor occupies in Japan's hierarchy. Sokurov misses a trick when he fails to emphasise the impact of the events which these meetings precipitated - for instance, it was only when Japan's surrender was announced that the amazed Japanese heard the voice of their Emperor for the first time. But where he succeeds is in capturing the dislocated life of Hirohito, using the confines of the imperial bunker to emphasise the distance between the Emperor and his people.
"OGATA'S MULTI-LAYERED PERFORMANCE"
The measured direction can feel sluggish as the camera refuses to cut away from lengthy scenes of people getting dressed or filing out of rooms, but Ogata's multi-layered performance more than compensates. Hesitant and quietly spoken for the most part, it's punctuated with moments when the authority of someone born to divinity shines through. As a result, Sokurov succeeds in putting a very human and all-too vulnerable face to one of the 20th century's most notorious leaders.
In Japanese with English subtitles