I've never done this before so bare with me! I got inspired seeing Kid Dynamite's review of The Exorcism of Emily Rose
So here comes Dara's review of...Philosophy of a Knife (dun dun duuun)
: This movie is not only 4 FREAKING HOURS LONG it contains highly disturbing and disgusting subject material. Those who are queasy or get triggered by anything medical should not even begin to view this movie. I'm not kidding you. Don't.
Ahem. Onwards to the review.
I stumbled across this film way back when I was in 11th grade, around 2009-2010. My brother and I were both sick one Friday and my mom and her then husband had decided to go on vacation. We were left at home bored out of our minds. However, my brother had his friend's NetFlix account. You know what that meant? Horror movies. I told him about this particular movie and we decided, hey, we've got nothing to do.
I lied. The review isn't next. A boring history lesson is. You can now proceed to close out of this review.
Some Background Historical Information
Many people have never heard of Unit 731
. History classes looove discussing, sometimes in length, the atrocities the Nazis committed at Auschwitz during the Second World War. We've seen the pictures of the absolute depravity: the ovens, the forced labor camps, maybe some of us have seen the medical bloc images. Josef Mengele ring a bell? We know the Nazis did medical experiments. We have proof.
Anyways, most people are familiar with the Holocaust in some way or another. However, when asked if people know about the "Asian Holocaust" enacted by the Japanese, many people tilt their heads to the side. People know Pearl Harbor and Iwojima. I have to admit, I had no idea about Japanese experimentation until I happened upon this movie. The Japanese side of World War II is highly glossed over. We'll discuss why in a bit.
World War II was a time of racism, imperialism, and the desire to be a supreme power. Every country that hadn't jumped on the imperialism bandwagon in the 1800's and 1900's wanted to now, albeit a bit late. During this time, Japan has occupied most of China and Southern Asia. Korea's last dynasty was ousted by the Japanese military. The Japanese justification for taking away Asia was they were ridding "Western Influence". As if the Japanese knew more than any other Asian country. Pfft.
Once China fell, the Japanese instituted a puppet state known as Manchukuo. Manchukuo was a joke and I feel such sadness for those who lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese imperial army.
I could continue going on about that, but let's get to Unit 731. Now, Unit 731
or the "Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army" was a biological and chemical warfare research facility headed by Shiro Ishii
(an officer in the Kwantung Army and friend of Emperor Hirohito). The Japanese told the Chinese authorities it was basically a plant to make clean water. And the Japanese laughed and laughed and laughed. What went on at these facilities cannot be described as atrocious. I don't even know if there IS a word for this. The Nazis did their thing. The Japanese..well..they did their thing too. But sneakier.
That brings us to the plot of the movie!
It's just pin the tail on the donkey...right?
Philosophy of a Knife presents itself as part documentary with many "mini stories" or plots interwoven inside. We see the perspectives of a young Japanese nurse in the camp and a Japanese soldier. There is a great dilemma at hand: Human empathy and knowing what they are doing is absolutely wrong or serving one's country in a time of war. In the movie, the former seems to be the winner at the end of the film. In reality...not so much
The movie shifts from real archival footage told from a Russian doctor who worked at Unit 731, Anatoly Protasov. Dr. Protasov speaks with a lighthearted tone and even jokes a few times, but you can tell this man has seen some sh*t, to put it lightly. We learn that Dr. Protasov became a doctor at a young age, living in Harbin due to the close vicinity it had with Russia. Dr. Protasov even stumbled upon Unit 731 before he became a medical student, gathering wild mushrooms. However, some Japanese soldiers caught him and briefly encouraged
him to never return back to the site.
After each interview with Dr. Protasov, the "experiments" begin. Some of the experiments actually happened at Unit 731 and you can only imagine the suffering and the absolute pain. However, I'm partially inclined to think some of the truly "shocking" ones (this is a pun, laugh) were invented by director Andrey Iskanov. Iskanov claims to have gathered rare data and archives from after the war, but we really don't know if that's true or not. One experiment in particular, that involves a female Russian prisoner and insects may leave you scarred for life. Or...maybe not. It made me afraid to sit down for a few weeks.
The film relies heavily on gore and shock factor to get the point across. It's a shockumentary of course. Forced abortions? Yep. That happened in Unit 731 and it happens in the film. Rape to spread STDs that the person was purposefully infected with? Check. Subjecting prisoners to radiation and having their skin melting off? C'mon. This is Unit 731 here. Inject people with this. Give them the plague. Whatever the Japanese wanted to study that day, they did. After all, those who were experimented on were not even humans. They called the subjects "maruta" or "logs", which apparently originated as joke among the staff of Unit 731.
A thing you might not enjoy about the film is the length. The movie is split into two sections. Part I initially sets up the story line and gives you a history lesson. Part I relies on Dr. Protasov's narrations to keep it going. While some of the stories he tells are interesting, they can really feel like a bore. The end of Part I does contain some experiments, but you'll find most of the truly gruesome ones in Part II. Part II also includes the end, which was kind of cheesy. The Japanese did surrender and blow up some of Unit 731, that much we do know. The film does comment that the United States rushed to gather the biological warfare information before the Russians did. Unlike with the Nazis, the US basically pardoned the Japanese. Damn you MacArthur.
Overall, the movie isn't bad if you're a history buff or extremely bored for 4 hours. There's gore and blood and guns and violence but really, the film feels extremely inaccurate. The prisoners are all insanely beautiful Russian women in their 20's. (that's your cue to go watch it) I mean they even wear mascara. MASCARA
. Come on now. This is a prison camp, not a prison camp porno. I expect my tortured souls to be as grimy and sickly looking as possible. The majority of the prisoners at Unit 731 were Chinese civilians anyways. Men, women, and children from the streets. Not hot Russian babes. If that was the case, would the Japanese even need to experiment on people?
That aside, I give the film a 6.5. The perspectives we get from the Japanese nurse and Japanese solider really hits the point home. They really didn't have a choice in the matter, but does that make their actions "right" or "justified"? Watch the film and let me know!
I like to think this is what a real life "glomp" looks like