Twenty-Four Eyes

A memorable performance by Hideko Takamine defines what is considered to be Japan's greatest antiwar film-and, despite its triumph of realism, its greatest tear-jerker. In 1928, when Miss Oishi (Takamine), a shockingly modern and progressive woman, begins her tenure as an elementary school teacher, the future seems to hold limitless possibilities for her twelve first-grade pupils. When the story ends, in the late 1940s, this promise has been wrecked, as students and teacher alike fall victim to growing militarism, rabid anticommunism, and a war they despise. In the broadest sense this film is a denunciation of a system that stifles individual growth and transforms personal ambition into unflinching devotion to the state. It makes its statement in and through the "eyes" of its child actors, with whom the audience could not but identify. It was "the ultimate expression of the theme of lovable and loving people suffering together in adverse circumstances" (Tadao Sato).

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