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Philosophy of a Knife
Philosophy of a Knife
Actors: Tetsuro Sakagami, Tomoya Okamoto, Yukari Fujimoto, Yumiko Fujiwara
Director: Andrey Iskanov
Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Military & War
NR     2009     4hr 9min

The true history of Japanese Unit 731, from its beginnings in the 1930's to its demise in 1945, and the subsequent trials in Khabarovsk, USSR, of many of the Japanese doctors from Unit 731. The facts are told, and previous...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Tetsuro Sakagami, Tomoya Okamoto, Yukari Fujimoto, Yumiko Fujiwara
Director: Andrey Iskanov
Genres: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Drama, Horror, Fantasy, Military & War
Studio: Unearthed Films
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 11/24/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 4hr 9min
Screens: Black and White,Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 13
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
See Also:

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Movie Reviews

One of the most ambitious, graphic, deeply disturbing and he
One of the Dead | 07/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"First, I'm sick of some reviewers going on and on about the GORE in this movie. This is NOT a HORROR movie. This is not a gore-drenched rip-off of "Saw" or "Hostel." In fact, most conventional horror movie loving folk will probably not sit all the way through this film, for the simple reason that there is not wall-to-wall gore or funny dialogue or gratuitous T&A.

For the most part this is a very detailed and very long history lesson, that like "Men Behind the Sun" is not afraid to show a shameful and horrendous part of the past in horrific detail. While "Men Behind the Sun" (a film that I also have a lot of respect for) is colorful, "Philosophy of a Knife" is presented in mostly black and white with a genuine 16mm educational documentary feel. While this effect has been overused and ineffective in the past, it works very well here.

Make no mistake "Philosophy of a Knife" is very graphic, and the grotesque and horrifying medical experiments are presented in nightmare-inducing detail. But it doesn't come off like gore for gore sake. It seems and 'feels' very real; as if we're actually there witnessing these unspeakable horrors in the name of medical science.

The actual run time with the introduction is nearly four and a half hours. It actually seems longer considering the exhausting amount of interview and recreated footage to be found here. However I was never bored. And, when it was finally over, I could do nothing but sit and stare at the screen. I was experiencing feelings that I rarely feel after watching a movie. Putting it simply, I was numb from the complexity, power and the shocking historical nature of the movie that had just consumed an entire summer evening.

Not Iskanov's best by a longshot, but still valuable.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 07/18/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Philosophy of a Knife (Andrey Iskanov, 2008)

For twenty years, a debate has raged over the title of most extreme gore film. While you'll have your classicists arguing for Cannibal Ferox and the like, the real discussion boils down to two films: Hideshi Hino's sixty-minute masterpiece Flower of Flesh and Blood and T. F. Mous' infamous started-as-a-documentary-and-turned-into-a-gore-film Men Behind the Sun. Now, MbtS is twenty years old, FoFaB twenty-three; you'd think by now someone would have pushed the envelope a bit. But those two movies are like the Whitehouse and Sutcliffe Jugend of filmdom; sometimes people get close, but no one ever seems to spill over into unknown territory. There are some envelopes that are, seemingly, made of titanium. The latest chap to try is Andrey Iskanov, whose Nails made me think we might be seeing the first truly boundary-battering Russian director since Tarkovsky; with Philosophy of a Knife, he decided to take what Mous was originally going to do and integrate it with what Mous finally did, creating what the horror underground have been calling a "goreumentary" ever since buzz started flying about this movie a year or so ago. And with a projected running time of over four hours (the released version does, in fact, clock in at four hours and nine minutes, excluding the intermission), a bunch of us believed it was time for Mous and Hino to step aside and acknowledge the new master. Well, now I've seen it. Mous and Hino are resting safely on their laurels.

It's tough to talk about directorial style when you're reviewing a documentary, so I'm not even going to try, except to mention that in the gore-film bits, all the wonderful stylistic quirks that made Nails (and, to a lesser extent, Visions of Suffering) such a treat are absent; I assume that's to keep the film's documentary look-and-feel. I missed them greatly, especially as it seemed to me that some more personal touches from Iskanov might have invested us a great deal more in what was going on; Mous achieves the shock and nausea he does in Men Behind the Sun specifically because he's got himself a storyline and some pretty solid characters, while Iskanov is more interested in depicting the horrors of Unit 731 in a more impressionist style. (There is one undercurrent of a storyline, actually; it involves what seems to be the growing feelings of a male nurse for one of the maruta. And it should come as no surprise that the resolution of that storyline, despite being one of the quietest scenes in the film, is also the strongest.) As a result, while there can be no doubt whatsoever that when you use a metric of gallons of fake blood and innards per hour, Iskanov probably has, in fact, created one of the most violent films I've ever seen, but the gore sequences never get under that barrier of detachment. There's no real effect to them, other than saying "hmm, interesting use of special effects." Also, a number of scenes seem designed more for shock value than anything else (though the documentary half of the film assures us that yes, these things really did happen), which took away from the movie somewhat. It should be noted, again, that the scenes obviously designed for shock value in Men Behind the Sun did not have this effect; i.e., they actually did shock, despite being far less explicit in most cases. I should also point out the soundtrack, which worked very well for a film like Nails, but constantly feels out of place here.

Still, I don't want to give the impression that this is a bad film. It's certainly the most comprehensive treatment of Unit 731 we've seen on screen, thanks in no small part to its epic run time, and that alone makes it a valuable document. And while I know Iskanov and crew spent four years on the project, it does seem as if one more rewrite of the script, to further integrate the gore-film aspects and give us some characters with whom we could empathize, would have done a great service to the finished product. ***

Poak (Great Movie,Worth Every Penny)
Sic | 08/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was waiting a While for (Philosophy of a Knife) and when i received it in the Mail. watched it that night. 4 Hour Movie Documentary/Feature-with Some Nice Extra's...

This Movie is going to Shock you,with everything that went on at Unit 731,The Director (Andrey Iskanov) did a Great job at Researching for this Project,Research that took him 4 years.Gaining Quite bit of Info of History to make a Succesful Movie. although the movie has a lot of History of what happend ect. the movie still doesnt (Tell ALL) of what happend. Movie could have been 30 minutes longer

USA did take the Info/documents from Unit exchange for amnesty to the (Doctors,soldiers) ect. i wish they could have gone into little more depth on that...

The way the director filmed the movie was great,with an old look,black/white,cigaret burns/lines ect.. really added to the viewing pleasure! The Actors did a good job at being believable,as well as the prisoners, The Music Score was Great! (the special Effects,Make-up,Sounds,Location's,) were all really Great as Well!!!

*looking forward to Andrey Iskanov's Next Movie* (The Tourist)"
God created heaven. Man created hell.
C. Christopher Blackshere | I am the devil's reject | 03/27/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"So few films really leave a lasting impression. Even rarer is the film that will snatch the breath from your lungs and leave you paralyzed in your seat. If Philosophy of a Knife doesn't leave you shellshocked and numb, nothing will. This is one of the boldest and most impressive achievements in the history of film.

Part documentary, part horror film, this nightmare inducing visual onslaught combines some gripping archival footage, candid interviews, and disturbing reenactments of chemical/radiation experiments performed by the Japanese Army Unit 731 in the 30's and 40's.

This is not a fun film to watch by any means. Shot mainly in black and white, POTK is a grueling, 4&1/2 hour history lesson. The vivid, deranged terror will strike you deeper than any fictional horror film ever could. Besides the melting of flesh and ripping bodies in half, it also flashes dead fetuses and some torturous surgical procedures including some STD experiments. Not for the faint of heart.

Much of this is backed by an industrial soundtrack. Perhaps it feels like an extremely warped and lengthy Nine Inch Nails video. Such a surreal experience. Your eyes will be fixated on the set and you will not even notice the time go by.

One horrible realization to try to come to grips with is the fact that these inhumane experiments performed on the victims actually helped advance Japan's medical knowledge way beyond the rest of the world. The end definitely doesn't justify the means, of course. But it makes me wonder if instead of capital punishment, maybe forcing hardened criminals to become instruments of science would be a viable option.

Masterfully shot and crafted in 2008 by Russian director Andrey Iskanov, Philosophy of a Knife has to be the most overwhelming, bizarre, wicked, creative, horrific, educational, aesthetically beautiful and heartbreaking experimental projects ever committed to film.

It's mind-boggling to realize the evil that man is capable of.