By this stage in his long career — he first burst onto the international scene with the cyberpunk classic “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” in 1989 — Shinya Tsukamoto knows how to get the maximum out of his budgets, which have almost always been low.
This has given him the freedom to tackle subjects that would normally be out of his reach, including the 2015 “Fires on the Plain,” a drama about Japanese soldiers starving and dying in the Philippines in the last days of World War II. Starring Tsukamoto as a lone straggler desperate to survive, the film achieved a stark impact with minimalistic means.
Something similar happens with “Shadow of Fire,” Tsukamoto’s new film set in early postwar Japan that is a thematic follow-up to both “Fires on the Plain” and his 2018 “Killing,” a feudal-era drama about a masterless samurai who refuses to kill his opponents. All three forcefully deliver an antiwar message without being preachy, though the first and third are more closely tied by their respective eras and disturbing imagery.