There was grumbling when it was announced Clint Eastwood would follow up Flags of Our Fathers with a film on Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective. Some weren’t ready to look at the legendary battle from any angle that criticized the American soldiers’ victory, others anticipated a liberal Hollywood revision of history. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that while Letters From Iwo Jima was hailed by critics as the superior of the two films, appearing on dozens of Top 10 lists for 2006, it grossed under $14 million in America, compared to Flags‘ $33.5 million.
It sounds like audiences could have benefited from recalling 1985’s “Reunion of Honor,” a memorial event at which American and Japanese veterans of Iwo Jima met on the beach to reflect on the painful history they shared.
The ceremony included the dedication of a monument, a plaque that
reads: “On the 40th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, American and
Japanese veterans met again on these same sands, this time in peace and
friendship. We commemorate our comrades, living and dead, who fought
here with bravery and honor, and we pray together that our sacrifices
on Iwo Jima will always be remembered and never be repeated.” The
message is inscribed on both sides, one for each language; the English
side faces the ocean where the Americans landed, the Japanese side
The gesture proved to be not merely symbolic: American and Japanese
veterans returned to celebrate the 50th, 55th, and 60th anniversaries
at the site. If the American Armed Forces — and so many of the very
soldiers themselves — were able to transcend their unilateral concept
of the battle and share stories with memories with the “enemy,” then
Eastwood’s movie is as actually as faithful and patriotic as you could
ever hope for, rinsing away some of the leftover mud and grit to show
how much cleaner faces and hearts are 60 years after the fact, on both
sides of the shore.
Watch Letters from Iwo Jima tonight, April 1 at 8PM | 7C. For a complete schedule of showtimes, click here.