with Issey Ogata as Emperor Hirohito
The Sun concerns the Japanese surrender to the United States at the end of the Second World War following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It focuses almost exclusively on the actions of the Japanese Emperor, Hirohito, and places great emphasis on his decision to renounce his singular divinity and to live as a man rather than as a descendant of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. It has not been as widely shown in Japan as one might expect because it breaks a serious taboo in having an actor play the Emperor and especially in depicting him as it does (including a very prominent facial tic.) This is not to say that Sokurov in any way sets out to humiliate the character he has shown in this unusual way. Though he is clearly identified with Charlie Chaplin, it is not done so in order to paint him as a pathetic clown, but to show (among other matters) Hirohito’s awareness of his having played a role as a divine ruler and playing, in his present situation within the film, an actor on the World Stage.