Thoughts on the Film
Some random thoughts and observations on the movie:
The film was based on a novel by Sakae Tsuboi.
The author uses the word, hitomi (瞳) which means pupil in Japanese not eye. Me (眼) is eye. Hitomi is a more poetic way to say eye, but the obvious pun must be considered.
Twenty-Four, four pronounced: yon , shi (四) in Japanese is an unlucky number in Japan. Notice the similarity with the word death: shi (死 ). Years ago in Japanese hospitals for example, there never used to be a 4th floor.
Considering the amount of death in the movie, I wonder if the 'four' in the title was noticeable to Japanese audiences.
In the Classroom
I am sure that the scene where Oishii says that the emperor is in the cupboard and not displayed in the classroom caused a few ripples in Japan in 1954. The emperor was considered a god and every classroom in the country had a picture of him at the front of the room to which everyone bowed before and after lessons. One of the students also asks, 'Is he hiding in there?'
The post war classroom near the end of the film has children's calligraphy posted in the wall to the left of the chalkboard. The writing says - Heiwa Nihon 平和 日本 peaceful Japan or Peace Japan. Although the 'Heiwa' peace part is in Katakana, not Kanji.
This part of the film grated me a little.
How could the children dig a pit and damage the teacher's leg without going unpunished? How could they get away with calling the teacher names without being taken to task for it? Especially the scene where the kids call the teacher a crybaby while she is praying at the graves of the war dead. Surely the kids would have been given a right royal bollocking for that one!
Just on a cultural note, the final party scene must have been at least a year after the death of Oishii's daughter. In Japan families refrain from any form of celebration for one year after the death of a family member.
Well, apart from the terrible Home Sweet Home and Auld Lang Syne music, a fantastic film.
For further viewing of the beautiful Seto Nai Kai region, I suggest Kaneto Shindo's superlative 'Naked Island'.