Criterion Collection wrote:
Masaki Kobayashi’s mammoth humanist drama is one of the most staggering achievements of Japanese cinema. Originally filmed and released in three parts, the nine-and-a-half-hour The Human Condition (Ningen no joken), adapted from Junpei Gomikawa’s six-volume novel, tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji (handsome Japanese superstar Tatsuya Nakadai) from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet POW. Constantly trying to rise above a corrupt system, Kaji time and again finds his morals an impediment rather than an advantage. A raw indictment of its nation’s wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi’s riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best.
SYNOPSIS OF PART 3
Hal Erickson on All Movie Guide wrote:
A Soldier’s Prayer (Ningen No Joken III) was the final entry in Japanese filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi’s Human Condition trilogy. As in 1958’s No Greater Love (see entry 23818) and 1961’s The Road to Eternity (see entry 23819), the protagonist is the pacifistic Kaji, played by Tatsuya Nakadai. Strong-armed into the Japanese military during World War II, Kaji has reluctantly learned to kill on the battlefields. Upon his country’s surrender, Kaji gives himself up to the Russian troops, hoping to receive better treatment than he had at the hands of his Japanese superiors. But his hopes are dashed once more, and he is subject to cruelty upon cruelty while imprisoned in a Manchurian POW camp. A Soldier’s Prayer, like its predecessors, was based on the epic multipart novel by Jumpei Gomigawa. In sum total, the three Human Condition films run for nearly ten hours.