In general, there is very little distinction between the author Yukio Mishima and many of the characters he has created in his works in his lifetime. In his 1958 play “Rokumeikan”, which was a huge success in his home country, the concept of true patriotism was one of the most important aspects. From then on, over a time period of almost a decade, Mishima dedicated himself to works for classical Japanese theatre as well as the medium of film, two passions he would combine in works such as the 1966 film “Patriotism” or “The Rite of Love and Death”.
“Patriotism” is screening at Japanese Avant-Garde and Experimental Film Festival 2019
The 28-minute-long-feature tells the story of a couple, Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama (Yukio Mishima) and his wife Reiko (Yoshiko Tsuruoka). After a failed coupe d’état, which Takeyama helped planning but did not participate in actively because of his wife, he is forced to help hunt down and eventually execute his comrades. Unwilling to follow these commands, he decides to commit seppuku and his devoted wife chooses to follow his example out of love.
Ultimately, there may be two ways to approach a work such as “Patriotism”. Given its title and content, there should be little doubt about Mishima’s intention: to define his vision of what true patriotism means. One of the central pieces of decorum on stage is a huge canvas with “Wholehearted Sincerity” written on it, emphasizing the film’s message and the seriousness of those involved. Additionally, considering the author’s biography, a work such as this may be regarded as a foreshadowing of certain events, but especially the development of a distinct radicalization in Mishima’s mind. Since he shows the act of self-sacrifice in much detail, these tendencies or thoughts may have been the driving force for a film such as this, or at the very least for the design of the two main characters.
However, even though the film is in many ways a strong masculine vision, there is also an interesting link between the film’s apparent ideology and the depiction of the body, especially in terms of human sexuality. Most notably, the character of Reiko symbolizes a strong emotional and also sexual connotation in the work. Her attraction towards the act of violence shows a deep devotion, reminiscent of works like Nagisa Oshima “In the Realm of Senses”. Almost logically, the sexual act, the penetration of the body during sex coincides with the blade cutting through one’s stomach. The use of music underlines the political as well as these other readings of the film.
In the end, “Patriotism” is an interesting work, a puzzle piece in understanding its director and his motivations. While some of the ideas may be overly psychological, the majority of viewers familiar with the works of Mishima will find them quite worthwhile and interesting. In any case, in combination with a film such as Paul Schrader’s “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters”, this work needs a certain level of context and discussion.