Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Man Behind the Sun: Cat Trauma Warning.

Man Behind the Sun is a film that does not fuck around. I made this my Facebook status earlier today because A. It was true and B. I'm sick of films that fuck around. I'm sick of The Human Centipede getting touted as the most disturbing film of all time and I'm sick of people going on and on about how gross the gore is in any of the Saw films. It's like those people are the pesky oceanographers and police chiefs and I'm Quint--(drunk because this shit is serious) spouting off stories about how you don't know shit. I KNOW because I was there. I watched really disturbing movies that would make you Saw fans cry at a moments notice. And I watched people get eaten by a shark right in front of me and the shark was staring at me with its black lifeless doll eyes and blah blah I'm so drunk, let's sing songs.

If you don't know about Unit 731 I suggest you take a walk on over to Wikipedia and do some catching up. Man Behind the Sun is all about the going ons at Unit 731 and it's a very hard film to sit through. I say this as someone who until today had never seen a man's poop and intestines come out of his butt hole. It's insanely graphic, unapologetic, and the thought that remains in the back of your head throughout its entirety--is that this actually happened. Horrible, unbelievable experiments were performed on human beings in Unit 731. Experiments like injecting people with malaria and then performing an autopsy on them while they were still alive.

Tying people to a post and dropping bombs with fleas infected with the bubonic plague on top of them.

Just really, really fucked up shit that seems so unbelievable yet so undeniably true.

The film is badly dubbed with voices that are clearly white but it doesn't really matter in the slightest. If you find that you are too put off by the unmatched voices than I would say you have bigger problems to worry about. We mostly focus on the youth corps that have been sent to Unit 731 to learn all about the experiments and lend a hand. Their participation reminded me in some ways of the youth in Salo--except here the boys are depicted with much more of a conscious. The expressions on their faces when being exposed to the experiments are the epitome of horror and shock.

It really hammers home the idea that these are young kids being forced into something. They are trained to believe that it is not right to kill non-Maruta but Maruta are fine for the taking.

Maruta by the way can be translated as "logs". Make of that what you will.

Honestly, my initial reaction to what was happening in front of my eyes was a combination of murder and suicide. Even when things looked fake--they didn't feel fake and that is the key point to take away from this. I even exclaimed out loud at what was going on. And I should mention this doesn't just apply to the graphic violence--it's more of a shock at how poorly humans were treated in general kind of thing.

In one early scene a woman destined to be a Maruta clutches onto her baby as she files into Unit 731. The general/ guy in charge grabs her baby and chucks it onto the snow. The sobbing woman gets pulled down into the chamber, while the general buries the baby in the snow--its crying instantly muffled.

It's scenes like this that populate the cruel and terrible nature of Man Behind the Sun. I always find that baby killing scenes are hard to withstand, and even though there is clearly no baby inside that bundle it's just the idea that really begins to distress you.

Later, in what was probably in my opinion the worst display of torture experiments, that same woman is tied up outside in the freezing cold. Ice cold water is poured over her out stretched hands.

The guy in charge here cuts off the icicles that form and then begins pouring more water on. Then she is taken inside after being outside for 10 hours and her hands are plunged into water.

After pulling them out the main guy in charge pulls her entire skin and muscle off of her arms like a glove.

A frickin glove.

It's really fucking outrageous for some reason. And it's not even like that's a particularly gruesome thing it's just too real all of a sudden.

Things don't get much better after this, gruesome up close and personal autopsies, live cats being thrown into the biggest pit of rats I have ever seen, people being gassed--the list really goes on. It's a film that is disturbing in a very simple way because it continuously makes us remember that shit like this does happen. Reading up on the details of the actual events sounds like they were even worse than what is depicted in the film and that my friends---is terrifying.

This will most certainly be making an appearance on my ultimate disturbing film list. I can't stop thinking about it. I keep seeing that man's poop and intestines and that woman's glove skin and deformed frost bitten hands and I feel sick! Again, I have to ask--why do we watch films like this? Man Behind the Sun is raising awareness about a past historical event that some people know nothing about and for that, it does have a point. But it's a lot and it's a lot to withstand for an hour and 30 minutes. I think I need to go watch The Carebears Movie.


B.STANK said...

I laughed so hard at the Quint intro that Im pretty sure I pissed my pants!! Im drunk, but still...funny as fuck!!

Eddie said...

Hi Andre! I love the way you write. It makes me want to watch every movie you write about.

dpm74 said...

Really wasn't expecting to see you review this film, it is one I know of but have never seen and from what I know, well done for sitting through it.

There are some films by which I am really put off but also feel I should watch, and this has always been one of those.

Another well written review, as usual, and knowing that you have sat through it and written about it kinda makes me feel better about maybe watching it myself.

I hope that makes sense - your reviews are always ones that I go to if I haven't seem a film and am intrigued, so I really appreciate this one.

Emily said...

Nice work, and I agree with a lot of your points. This is easily one of the hardest films I've ever watched, and a huge part of that is the fact that a lot of these crimes did actually happen in one form or another during WWII.

The one thing that really bothers me about the film, however, (and I'm sure you'll agree) is the f*cking cat scene. It's the one place where the film is just plain gratuitous. Like a lot of the animal violence in Cannibal Holocaust, it really adds nothing to the narrative and ultimately just takes me out of the story because I know that's an actual real kitty being eaten alive by rats. Why, why why?????

Andre said...

Thanks B. Stank, it's all for you! *Hangs myself* Just kidding I'm okay.

Hi Eddie! Thanks a million!

dpm- Thanks! That is a very nice compliment. I don't think many people can boast the fact that they compelled someone to watch a film like this through their review! Hehe but yes, I think you can do it. Just keep breathing and remember it's only a movie---except this shit reall happened, which really kind of doesn't help anything. Hmm well best of luck anyways! : )

Em- Ahhhhhh that WAS a real cat?! I avoided reading anything about it because I didn't want to know the truth. Although looking back it was insanely real looking. But yes, I could hardly stand it.

It's like, I understand that you want a sense of a realism or whatever but why not just kill real people too? Although I'm sure it's for a much more depressing reason, like the fact that a real cat was cheaper than making one....sigh. RIP kitty

James said...

Oh God. I wish I hadn't watched that. I just feel sad and nauseous now. I'm not aware of this film at all, Andre. But after reading your review and watching that clip, I don't think I'll be going out of my way to check it out. Unless of course it happens to be on TV some time...
Like you say, because this is so politically charged and rooted in fact, the grip it has on viewers will no doubt increase. It just seems to depressing. :o/

Emily said...

Sorry Andre! Yeah, much like Europe (where the horse population is being slowly shrunk by Michael Haneke), cinematic laws regarding animal violence weren't (and maybe aren't, I don't really know) so strict in Asia :(

Celendra said...


I just want to start off by saying, I love taking this journey into horror buff-dom with you on your blog.

I was thinking about what you said - why we expose ourselves to these movies that genuinely disturb us - as opposed to most horror movies which we watch not expecting to be traumatized by (disclosure - I haven't seen this one yet). A few jump scares, some gore, some highly unlikeable people that you might giggle at the death of, the final girl, etc. is a good Friday night. But then there are other movies, which this sounds like a prime example of, that we don't enter into expecting to enjoy and often enter with the sole purpose of seeing if we can.

I've always felt a combination of factors - first the "IS it really as bad as I'm hearing?" factor, where you want to know if other people's reactions are hyperbole (Saw) or justified (Ichi).

Second, there's the "Can I handle it?" factor, which has an element of bravado, but also of genuine curiousity. Am I strong enough to sit through this? Will it give me nightmares? Will I cry like a baby?

For me, there's also always a third factor, which is also tied in with bravado and self-assessment - which I'll call the "If I can't deal with a movie that shows me these terrible things, how can I deal with a world in which they actually happen?" factor. This film seems a prime example of this factor in action - yes, it's disturbing and possibly even traumatic, but, as you say, it's probably not half as bad as what REALLY HAPPENED. And I think that's where this factor really outweighs all the others - you can read the description of what Unit 741 did on wikipedia (which I did...) and that's one dimension of "knowing" what happened. But by putting yourself though (even a staged, less terrible than reality) watching of what happens, you're essentially trying to "know" it on a much deeper level. To really connect and understand with the terrible things that happen in life - which is not pleasant and I don't think anyone expects a medal for, but is a far cry from the reasons that most people who use the tag "torture porn" would have us believe that people turn in.

Wow....that got long! Sorry to tl;dr your blog!

hmscollingwood said...

Chinese objects were called 'Maruta' or 'Logs' because the Japanese would put Chinese or Allied POW arms and legs into liquid nitrogen, and when they had turned black they would tap them with a hammer until they sounded like a log. Then they knew they were frozen solid. After thet the Japanese would smash the frozen flesh with the hammers, into many fragments. This while people were still alive. And there's much worse.

Tim said...

Great review. Unlike most horror experiences, this one has the added benefit if being historically educational. Pretty crazy stuff.

I had heard about the cat scene before I watched it, and was really curious. From what I've read, the cat was real but *was not harmed*. If you read through all the comments on IMDB, one guy claims to have been on the set, and can verify what the director said once in an interview: The "blood" on the cat was corn syrup, which the rats were licking off. So I'm sure the cat didn't love being bombarded by rats, but at least they weren't actually biting it.

Anonymous said...

good review. I've only seen some clips - the pressure chamber with the intestines? Is that a dead body they use?! I can't believe their FX department knocked up a dummy for that scene

Also, I'd like to add to "why we watch these" - I think in this case, as it was real, for me anyway, you feel a sense of duty to understand what people have been through in the past, I think to give yourself a greater sense of perspective of the world we currently live in. Which is why the most shocking films are those that try to delve into what we understand is the dark corners of the world, rather than the comedy violence in films like Saw

Anonymous said...

I remember watching this a a kid. The degloving scene has always stuck with me. I forgot what movie it was from and now I know I'm going to watch it again. Thank you x

TracieStarr said...

Man, I'm watching this shit now, and when you say this film is hard to sit through, you are right. I thought I've had my share of disturbing films ("Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, A Serbian Film, Cannibal Holocaust, Martyrs). This film will truly fuck with you. Human Centipede ain't got shit on this film.

Goffrey Toombs said...

Great film. The cat scene is one of the more tamer scenes IMO. It's not getting eaten alive, it's covered in syrup which the rats are licking/eating. The part where the rats are set on fire is far worse.

Marvin the Macabre said...

Celendra, just wanted to thank you for that comment. It's the most eloquent explanation for "why horror?" I've ever read.

Rigel Moonscream said...

I guess I am alone in finding the "child" scene one of the most difficult scenes to sit through in my entire life.

Like most here, I am a horror movie freak but this scene...just... oh man.

The way they take a couple of minutes to show the trusting nature of the child as he curiously looks around and even plays with the surgeons a bit. The whole time I am just thinking,"get out of there, get out there..." but where would he go?

You know what's coming and you can feel it in the pit of your stomach...

The casualness of the ether and the zero hesitation in the cut. I was steeled for it yet unprepared.

This director is either genius or demon and 15 years after first watching this film I am still unsure.

Anonymous said...

The movie is too graphic and does not contain as much educational purpose as it should have. I enjoyed(?) the gore until I reminded myself that it was true. Do not watch this in the middle of the night. I warn ya.