Masaki Kobayashi

The Human Condition

The Human Condition

Masaki Kobayashi’s mammoth humanist drama is one of the most staggering achievements of Japanese cinema. Originally filmed and released in three parts, the nine-and-a-half-hour The Human Condition (Ningen no joken), adapted from Junpei Gomikawa’s six-volume novel, tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji (handsome Japanese superstar Tatsuya Nakadai) from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet POW. Constantly trying to rise above a corrupt system, Kaji time and again finds his morals an impediment rather than an advantage. A raw indictment of its nation’s wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi’s riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best.

Film Info

  • Masaki Kobayashi
  • Japan
  • 1959
  • 574 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 2.35:1
  • Japanese
  • Spine #480

Special Features

FOUR-DISC SPECIAL EDITION:

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Excerpt from a rare Directors Guild of Japan video interview with director Masaki Kobayashi, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda (Double Suicide)
  • New video interview with actor Tatsuya Nakadai
  • Video appreciation of Kobayashi and The Human Condition featuring Shinoda
  • Japanese theatrical trailers
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp

New cover design by Sarah Habibi, calligraphy by Akiko Crowther

Purchase Options

Special Features

FOUR-DISC SPECIAL EDITION:

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Excerpt from a rare Directors Guild of Japan video interview with director Masaki Kobayashi, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda (Double Suicide)
  • New video interview with actor Tatsuya Nakadai
  • Video appreciation of Kobayashi and The Human Condition featuring Shinoda
  • Japanese theatrical trailers
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp

New cover design by Sarah Habibi, calligraphy by Akiko Crowther

The Human Condition
Cast
Tatsuya Nakadai
Kaji
Michiyo Aratama
Michiko (Parts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6)
Chikage Awashima
Jin Tung Fu (Parts 1 and 2)
Ineko Arima
Yang Chun Lan (Parts 1 and 2)
Keiji Sada
Kageyama (Parts 1 and 4)
So Yamamura
Okishima (Parts 1 and 2)
Akira Ishihama
Chen (Parts 1 and 2)
Shinji Nambara
Kao (Parts 1 and 2)
Seiji Miyaguchi
Wang Heng Li (Parts 1 and 2)
Toru Abe
Sergeant Watai (Parts 1 and 2)
Masao Mishima
Manager Kuroki (Parts 1 and 2)
Eitaro Ozawa
Okazaki (Parts 1 and 2)
Koji Mitsui
Furuya (Parts 1 and 2)
Akitake Kono
Captain Kono (Parts 1 and 2)
Nobuo Nakamura
Head Office Chief (Parts 1 and 2)
Kyu Sazanka
Cho Meisan (Parts 1 and 2)
Kokinji Katsura
Sasa (Part 3)
Jun Tatara
Hino (Part 3)
Michio Minami
Yoshida (Part 3)
Kei Sato
Shinjo (Part 3)
Kunie Tanaka
Obara (Part 3)
Taketoshi Naito
Tange (Part 3, 5, and 6)
Yusuke Kawazu
Terada (Parts 4, 5, and 6)
Susumu Fujita
Naruto (Part 4)
Minoru Chiaki
Onodera (Part 4)
Shoji Yasui
Officer aspirant (Part 4)
Fumio Watanabe
Staff officer (Part 4)
Tamao Nakamura
Refugee (Part 5)
Chishu Ryu
Old man in refugee camp (Part 6)
Hideko Takamine
Old woman in refugee camp (Part 6)
Kyoko Kishida
Tatsuko (Part 5)
Reiko Hitomi
Umeko (Part 5)
Keijiro Morozumi
Hironaka (Part 5)
Koji Kiyomura
Hikida (Part 5)
Nobuo Kaneko
Kirihara (Part 5 and 6)
Ed Keene
Russian officer (Part 6)
Ronald Self
Chabayev (Part 6)
Credits
Director
Masaki Kobayashi
Producer
Shigeru Wakatsuki
Screenplay
Zenzo Matsuyama
Screenplay
Masaki Kobayashi
Based on the novel by
Jumpei Gomikawa
Production managers
Tatsuo Osawa
Production managers
Zempei Moriyama
Cinematography
Yoshio Miyajima
Lighting
Takashi Kato
Lighting
Akira Aomatsu
Editing
Keiichi Uraoka
Music
Chuji Kinoshita
Sound
Hideo Nishizaki
Art direction
Kazue Hirataka

From The Current

Master Strokes
Master Strokes

Akiko Crowther, a grand master of Japanese calligraphy, created the title treatment for our release of The Human Condition. This is the original design she sent us. —Sarah Habibi, art director

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The Human Condition: The Prisoner
The Human Condition: The Prisoner

“It’s not my fault that I’m Japanese . . . yet it’s my worst crime that I am!” The words are those of Kaji, hero of The Human Condition, but in their anguish and existential despair, they also speak for the film’s director, Masaki Kobayas…

By Philip Kemp

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Thoughts and Words Won’t Save Us: One Scene from The Human Condition

One Scene

Thoughts and Words Won’t Save Us: One Scene from The Human Condition

When I first heard about The Human Condition (1959–61), I was already familiar with director Masaki Kobayashi’s irreverent Harakiri (1962), a favorite film of mine where samurai are scum of the earth and honor is equivalent to dirt. I immediately…

By Emma Ríos

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The Eighth Samurai: Tatsuya Nakadai

This expansive tribute to the iconic Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai was first published on the Criterion Collection’s website in fall 2005, around the time of the Criterion releases of two films starring Nakadai: Kurosawa’s Ran and the less well-

By Chuck Stephens


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Tatsuya Nakadai

Actor

Tatsuya Nakadai
Tatsuya Nakadai

A dynamic, handsome star who got his start in Japanese cinema during its 1950s golden age, the Tokyo-born Tatsuya Nakadai defies easy categorization. He is convincing whether playing a mercenary lone wolf or a heartsick love interest, a hero or a villain, in a sleek suit or samurai robes, and just as comfortable blending in to an ensemble as commanding a spotlight. The stage-trained actor was discovered, while working as a shop clerk, in 1953 by director Masaki Kobayashi, who promptly cast him in a tiny role in the controversial drama The Thick-Walled Room; a year later, he was given a walk-on part in Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. After a major breakthrough as a young yakuza in Kobayashi’s Black River, Nakadai was on his way to becoming one of Japan’s busiest actors; he would work several more times with both Kobayashi and Kurosawa, as well as Hideo Gosha, Kon Ichikawa, Mikio Naruse, Kihachi Okamoto, and Hiroshi Teshigahara—the cream of the nation’s crop of film artists. Nakadai, still acting into his eighties, is perhaps most often recalled for his ravaging performances in Kobayashi’s epic war drama The Human Condition (1959–61) and Kurosawa’s Ran (1985), in which he embodies unforgettably a cinematic King Lear for the ages.