Saharin-no-Bara (Roses in Sakhalin)
In a university hospital room at night, Hiroshi Yabuki (Koji Yakusho) puts potassium chloride in a
hypodermic syringe. Then, murmuring, "I won't let you suffer any longer." Yabuki gives Nobuko, a
woman who has long been suffering from torturing pain caused by bone-marrow cancer, an injection
in the arm.
Next we see Yabuki as a tourist in Sakhalin getting off a train at Yuzhno-Sakhalin station. Yabuki
goes to a hotel near the station. Once in his room, he puts a photograph of a woman on the bedside
table. The woman is Nobuko. Looking outside, Yabuki finds a figure like Nobuko among the people
on the street. He murmurs, "Nobuko, you have followed me!" It seems that Yabuki has the illusion
that he is once again glimpsing Nobuko.
In the hotel restaurant, Yabuki happens to become friendly with a pretty Russian waitress named
Martia. He tries to make himself understood both by gesture and in broken Russian, but when he
finds her looking puzzled, he takes out a book from his bag, and starts reading some lines in Russian.
Martia instantly understands that these lines are from "Uncle Vanya".
Yabuki's purpose in visiting Sakhalin seems to be to see a Russian doctor named Sollin, who has been
to study medicine at a medical school in Hokkaido. Yabuki and Sollin seem to have made friends on
the university campus when they performed Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" in Russian: Yabuki's
role was that of Uncle Vanya. In Japanese, Yabuki now tells Sollin that his fiancee, Nobuko has died
of bone-marrow cancer recently and that he has left the hospital for which he had been working.
Sollin then suggests to Yabuki that he should work with him at his hospital.
They also talk about the Russian waitress Martia: when Sollin takes Yabuki to a theater hall to show
him a rehearsal by an amateur group to which he belongs, Yabuki becomes surprised to find Martia on
the stage. Sollin explains that Martia actually wants to become an actress.
At night, in his room at the hotel, Yabuki whispers to the photograph of Nobuko on a bedside table
that he will buy a bunch of roses for her tomorrow.
While buying a bunch of beautiful roses at a stand on a street, Yabuki is spoken to by Martia.
Speaking something in Russian, she tugs him toward the Chekhov theater. Inside the theater, Yabuki
understands that Martia is going to get an audition as an actress. She speaks the famous soliloquy of
Nina in "Sea-gull". While watching Martia standing on the stage in front of a director, Yabuki
suddenly sees Nobuko dressed in white as Nina behind Martia and speaking the same lines in Japanese.
Martia becomes disappointed after the audition because she is told by a famous director from Moscow
that she is not talented enough to be an actress. Understanding the situation, Yabuki hands her the
bunch of roses which he has bought for Nobuko and invites her to a picnic to the countryside to
encourage her. They have a happy time, riding a carriage, rowing a boat, and running merrily in the
forest, when Martia suddenly falls on the ground and becomes unconscious for a little while.
Hearing that Martia becomes unconscious from time to time, Yabuki asks Sollin to check Martia's
health because it is quite likely that she is suffering from leukemia. Yabuki's guess is correct. Sollin
tells Yabuki that Martia's leukemia is still at the first stage, and that with the help of an anti-cancer
drug her illness can be cured, adding that his hospital does not have enough of the anti-cancer drug.
To this remark, Yabuki reacts immediately, saying that he will go back to Japan the next day and send
the necessary medicine to his hospital. Sollin tells him that he would like Yabuki to return to Sakhalin
soon because he wishes Yabuki to become a head doctor at the new hospital that he and his colleagues
are planning to establish. Yabuki cordially declines his offer saying that he is not qualified for such a
Yabuki now stands on the platform of the railway station to leave for Japan, when Martia, looking
very sad, rushes to see him off in her waitress uniform. When Yabuki's train pulls into the platform,
he suddenly talks to her in Japanese, saying, "Martia, I have got something to confess to you. I know
you don't understand me but do please listen to me, would you?"
Yabuki tells her that he has killed his fiancee who had been torturing pain casued by cancer by
injecting potassium chloride in her arm. He has not been asked to kill her by Nobuko herself nor by
her family members. It was his decision. He continues, saying "Nobody knows that I have killed her.
Why disturb the world by confessing this? This is the mercy killing. I have relieved her from
unbearable pain. Nobody can condemn of me for this. I am guiltless. I can't be a murderer. .... I
came here wishing to think this way but in vain. Now I know that I can never erase the fact that I have
killed her by my own hand. Even though she may have forgiven me, I can't forgive myself. I came to
realize it when I came here. When I confess this on returning, I may lose the doctor's qualification and
may be accused of being a murderer. But I'm afraid that I won't be able to go anywhere if I don't do
this. Martia, would you forgive me?
Martia only knows that Yabuki feels so sad. Then he takes out the book of "Uncle Vanya" and reads:
Oh, Sonia, no Martia, I am miserable; if you only knew how miserable I am!"
Martia takes his book and starts reading the next Sonia's line:
"What can we do? We must live our lives. Yes, we shall live, Uncle Vanya. We shall live through the
long procession of days before us, and through the long evenings; we shall patiently bear the trials that
fate imposes on us; we shall work for others without rest, both now and when we are old; and when our
last hour comes we shall meet it humbly; and there, beyond the grave, we shall say that we have
suffered, that we have wept, and that our life was bitter, and God will have pity on us. Ah, then dear,
dear Uncle, we shall see that bright and beautiful life; we shall rejoice and look back upon our sorrow
here; a tender smile -- and --we shall rest. I have faith, Uncle, fervent, passionate faith."
Finding Yabuki weeping, Martia contiues,
"My poor, poor Uncle Vanya, you are crying! ..... but wait, Uncle Vanya, wait!"
In Japanese, Yabuki says, "Kami-sama, Oyurushi-kudasai! (God please forgive me!)" and runs onto
the train. Looking towards Yabuki waving to her from the train, Martia keeps on saying, "We shall
rest. We shall rest. Please come back someday. I will keep your book until then."
To those of you who have read it, I say 'Thank you for reading such a long synopsis'.
Every time I watch the video of this TV drama (first telecast in 1991), when Koji Yakusho was 35
yeras old, I can't help feeling emotional. The theme of this drama is sad and serious. I respect
Yakusho for having performed such a difficult role in a difficult situation. When he is with Martia, he
speaks to her in Japanese, in broken Russian, and uses some lines from Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya"
reading the drama book.
I think that he expressed well his complicated feeling of grievance and remorse. When he makes a
confession to Martia in Japanese about what he has done to his fiancee, he seems to be actually
crying. It is a very impressive drama.
----- March 20, 2004 -----
November 24 , 1991
Koji Yakusho: Hiroshi Yabuki
Malina : Martia
Sayoko Nasu: Nobuko Akitsu
Brian M. Yull : Sollin
Scenario: Shin-ichi Ichikawa
Director: Osamu Naganuma
Yabuki and Martia