When a war comes, all individuals are victims and no one can walk away, at least so goes the central thesis of Chinese film "The Loner."
Opening on Friday, "The Loner" is a bold Chinese film insofar as it looks at the horrors of war and its aftermath from the perspective of a Japanese soldier.
Kentaro Ishibashi, played by Japanese actor Hideo Nakaizumi, is forced to enlist in the army and invade China in the 1930s. After a fierce battle in northern China's Hebei Province he is the only survivor, the war depriving him of everything as he becomes the titular loner.
"There is no chance for resistance in a war and all hopes are broken, which is the most painful thing," said the film's director, Guan Jing.
In his preparation for the film, Guan read a series of diaries and memoirs written by Japanese veterans, giving him the raw materials and inspiration to shoot the film from the perspective of a Japanese soldier.
"I found that in the war, many Japanese soldiers were also victims who had no choice," Guan said, in an interview with Xinhua, calling for more anti-war awareness.
Nakaizumi was cast to play the leading role, as Guan has long been impressed by his performance in the 2009 Chinese film "City of Life and Death" (also known as "Nanjing! Nanjing!").
"City of Life and Death" focuses on the massacre of Chinese civilians by the Japanese army in Nanjing, and Nakaizumi played the inexperienced Japanese soldier Kadokawa who rescued Chinese victims before finally killing himself.
"Nakaizumi's performance and temperament in 'City of Life and Death' showed that he was the one to play the role, as I aim to characterize Ishibashi as a normal soldier," Guan said.
Having worked as a documentary director for over 10 years, Guan is insistent that an actor's own characteristics and experience must act in tandem with any role.
"The actor and the character must work in concert so that reality can be reflected on camera," Guan said.
Accordingly, most Chinese villagers in the film were played by local villagers, giving vivid imagery to village life in Hebei in the 1930s.
For its special perspective in discussing war, "The Loner" was selected for the 72nd Venice Film Festival in 2015, and was nominated by UNESCO for the Fellini Medal, as an outstanding anti-war film.
Though not optimistic about the box office, Guan said that "although the film is far from perfect, it was made sincerely and acts as an appeal for peace."