Aleksandr Sokurov is best known in the US for 2002’s "Russian Ark," largely because, as you doubtless know, the whole film was done in one take. Flashy! "The Sun," which, with the exception of a notable dream sequence in which the American bombers are envisioned as winged fish, is decidedly not flashy, and thus doesn’t have a US distributor. Which is a shame â€” it’s an extraordinary film.
The third in Sokurov’s planned tetralogy about persons in power (the first, "Moloch," was about Hitler; the second, "Taurus," about Lenin), "The Sun" focuses on Emperor Hirohito in his last days in power, shuffling around his palace in the midst of an otherwise shattered Tokyo. World War II is almost over, and Hirohito awaits the Americans with a mixture of fear and anticipation. He’s hovered around by various servants, who insists on going about business as normal â€” he’s still considered a direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, a belief he rather cruelly queries them about, as it’s become inarguable that there’s no divine providence on the side of the Japanese forces. We’re hesitant to say much more â€” Issei Ogata‘s performance is a masterpiece of inflection that unfolds so gradually it’s reductive to attempt to put it into words. What we come to understand is how totally removed from normal life Sokurov’s Hirohito is â€” he’s been made into an unwilling living figurehead who’s being held responsible for terrible things (Sokurov steps around the debated historical issue of the amount of responsibility Hirohito actually bore for Japan’s involvement in the war), but he’s an ineffectual character, a foolish one. The American photographers note his resemblance to Charlie Chaplin, a motif Sokurov picks up as the film goes on with bits of subdued physical comedy. By the time a battle-weary General MacArthur (Robert Dawson) summons the emperor to a meeting, we already know what he soon discovers â€” there is no head to the monster, no one who can pinned down as the one who started everything, no one who can answer MacArthur’s burning desire to know why. As he says, "I don’t understand how such people can rule the world"; of course, these are the people who rule the world â€” inevitably, and often disappointingly, human.
"The Sun" currently has no US distributor.