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The Representation of Japan in British POW films of the 1950s

Nakao, Tomyo (2015) The Representation of Japan in British POW films of the 1950s. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This thesis analyses the formation of images and representations of Japan in British films of the 1950s. Japan's image changed drastically during and after World War II, as knowledge of Japan's maltreatment of prisoners of war (POWs) became known. The thesis considers four films and the novels or scripts from which they were made: The Wind Cannot Read (both David Lean's and Ralph Thomas's version), A Town Like Alice, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and The Camp on Blood Island. This study shows how film became a venue for expressing untold experiences and the battle over 'proper' representations of both the POWs themselves and the Japanese Army. Japan's side is more sympathetically addressed in Lean's work; those critical of the country are represented in Alice. A film that led to greater intervention related to Japan's point of view was Kwai, aspects of which were extended, and others overturned, in a subsequent horror film (Blood Island). As further argued here, Japan as an (ex) enemy often assumes a feminine or demonised form in these texts, and sometimes blurs with the Nazi image. Generally, the West portrays the 'Other' as hostile male or available female, while Japanese women in Thomas's Wind are frequently presented as insensitive. This thesis further reveals that Japan's envoys endeavoured to present the country as a trustworthy state before the United Nations in an attempt to inhibit the circulation of negative images, while Britain, in the process of reconfiguring rapidly changing relations to its colonies and ex-colonies, tried to present itself as a new Empire with its Commonwealth. These studies of representations of Japan are examined in the context of oral histories of those who lived in the POW camps, showing how each experience interacts with the ways Japan, as the (former) captors, was represented.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2016 11:47
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2016 11:47
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/16055

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