Based on the real events of ‘The Cowra Breakout’ in Australia during 1944, Broken Sun is the story of the meeting of Japanese POW escapee Masaru (Shingo Usami) and hill farmer Jack (Jai Koutrae). The events Jack experienced during WWI haunt him, quite literally, as does the expectation of nationalistic ‘honour’ to Masaru. The inclusion of what happens to two of the other POW escapees offer a foil to Masaru’s attitude of ‘there is no shame in not dying’, and with the inference of Masaru’s suicide at the end leaves the only POW being the only one left alive was the one who strongly advocated death before dishonour.
Whilst the film is beautifully shot and edited, most of the story takes place in flashback – providing the reason and detail behind each character’s present state – and at 93 minutes seems like a very slow film. The WWI sequences were portrayed very well and, personally, I think this is where the main story should have focussed. Although the film is about the meeting of Jack and Masaru, it is really Jack’s story, with him coming to terms with what happened between him and his friend Allan during 1916.
Masaru helps Jack deal with his issues over the death of his friend, but the last shot shows a new ghost in Jack’s room, this time the German he killed in cold blood, which I thought was a very weak ending and a little too ‘Hollywood’ for my liking.
There are some very nice visuals in Broken Sun: the opening shot of the hanging man, and the ghost of Jack’s old army friend Allan being two of the best, but a feature film needs to be more substance rather than style. I’m sure that the director and writer were aiming for layers of imagery and symbolism to show the trauma and effects war has on the human spirit, but the trouble with such techniques is that they will be interpreted differently by everyone who views them. Some may read a deep meaning to the sub-text, whilst others may be left wondering what it was all about.
Although the performances by the two main characters were very good, I was left disappointed in the end.
Review by Andy Goodman