This mammoth humanist drama by Masaki Kobayashi is one of the most staggering achievements of Japanese cinema. Originally filmed and released in three installments of two parts each, the nine-and-a-half-hour The Human Condition, adapted from Junpei Gomikawa’s six-volume novel, tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji—played by the Japanese superstar Tatsuya Nakadai—from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet prisoner of war. Constantly trying to rise above a corrupt system, Kaji time and again finds his morals to be an impediment rather than an advantage. A raw indictment of Japan’s wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi’s riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best.
On the Blu-ray: High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural (Parts 1–4) and 4.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio (Parts 5 and 6) soundtracks
On the DVD: Restored high-definition digital transfer
Excerpt from a 1993 Directors Guild of Japan interview with director Masaki Kobayashi, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda
Interview from 2009 with actor Tatsuya Nakadai
Appreciation of Kobayashi and The Human Condition from 2009 featuring Shinoda
PLUS: An essay by critic Philip Kemp