WWII movies are a dime a dozen, and so are many movies which touch on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Japan still remains the only unfortunate victim of an actual bombing incident using atomic/nuclear weapons, and I suppose any movie that touches on this topic out of Japan, deserves a watch for the perspective it brings. Black Rain is no different.
Based on the novel by Masuji Ibuse, Black Rain referred to the rain which fell just after the mushroom cloud ballooned, and because of the high radioactivity content in the atmosphere, what fell from the sky was actually contaminated, and was reportedly black in colour. But the film isn't a meteorological exercise, but rather one which is rather rich in its drama on the sufferings of both the direct and indirect victims of the A-bomb, as well as the psychological scars inflicted upon, and endured by surviving soldiers of the war.
Putting its fulcrum on lead character Yasuko (Yoshiko Tanaka), who was near Hiroshima enough for the black rain to fall upon her, it tells of the prejudice everyone else has of her. Faced with social discrimination which hinders her ability to get married, and worse, the need to be isolated into a small village of survivors from the A-bomb, it tells of the horrors of war of the worse kind, and that's the aftermath despise one has to suffer through to the end of one's natural life. Though the village she resides in has interesting characters who encourage one another and keep the spirits up, there is always an overhanging ominous feel to the place, as one by one the inhabitants have to face up to the inevitable.
It's not always doom and gloom in the movie, as it does provide some avenue for much needed comedy to elevate the depressing mood. But the more powerful scenes were those in the beginning. While not possessing snazzy special effects to recreate the events on the tragic day, its simplicity brought the message and visuals out vividly enough. There is no big bang, but rather a lone bomb parachuting down is adequate to send down chills of the unfortunate and expected. The direct victims as portrayed here were the most realistic (even when watched today) of many films that I've seen, and the reminders are to the point and stark.
But the flaws in this black and white movie was the degeneration of the narrative into serious melodrama which for the most parts dragged on for just too long. Clocking just over 2 hours, it actually felt a lot more, and I thought if it could have tightened up the pace a bit with the exclusion of some unnecessary scenes involving too many side characters, and should also have kept focus instead on a select few to support the main lead.
Black Rain though serves its point, in being an anti-war / nuclear bomb movie, and boy does it actually inflict a test of your patience to finish watching it.