Alexander Sokurov is definitely no stranger to creating these slow-moving dramatic pictures, which require full attention from each viewer and his new picture, “The Sun,” is certainly no exception. Actually considered the third part of a tetrology (following a film about Hitler called “Moloch” and another about Lenin called “Telets”), this film focuses around a defeated Japanese Emperor and his dealings with General Douglas MacArthur in 1945 Japan.
Reflecting on Sokurov’s other recent work – like “Russian Arc” for example – “The Sun” is a giant step down. It’s an outrageously long-winded drama that’s awfully directed with the skill of a high school play. The lighting and set design also compliment this stage play feel. An eerie sounding score that doesn’t match the tone or imagery of what’s going on mostly envelops the film. It’s the kind of music you half expect to see zombies pop out of the ground to and feast upon the living. Only nothing of the sort happens here, but you want it to.
There is some ingenuity to be found here actually. A sequence involving some animation shows us Japan being bombed supposedly by the Americans. It’s a very surreal sequence, as the planes are actually fish with airplane wings swimming around the sky, dropping bombs whenever they yearn to. Why couldn’t there be more of this? It was a vision by the Emperor, one of the only sequences that show his disappointment with defeat that we are shown.
Issei Ogata plays Emperor Hirohito with a Chaplin-like curiosity in the elements around him. It’s a quiet performance, often conveyed with a Bubba Blue lip flutter, meant to communicate the character’s feelings to the audience without spelling it out for us verbally. There have been countless attempts at using an actor’s talents for this sort of _expression that have worked brilliantly. Here, the attempt was futile.