Directed by Akira Kurosawa, students protest the rise of Japanese militarism in the 1930s, and a professor's daughter marries one who sacrifices himself trying to stop the war.
At Kyoto University male students in uniforms run after Yukie Yagihara (Setsuko Hara). Ruykichi Noge (Susumu Fujita) says that after Manchuria fascism will end freedom of learning. In 1933 Noge says they must stop the militarists. Yukie asks Itokawa (Akitake Kono) to apologize. Professors and students protest the policies of the Education minister. Police arrest the leaders, and the students go back to class. Professor Yagihara (Denjiro Okochi) says they will rise again. Itokawa and Noge are not at the meeting and are suspected. Yukie tells Noge that he avoided being called a traitor.
In 1938 soldiers march. Professor Yagihara advises the poor for free. At dinner with the Yagiharas, Itokawa says he is leaving and that Noge has changed. Yukie tells Itokawa that life with him would be boring, but with Noge it would be dazzling. Noge was in prison for five years, but Itokawa says he got him a job in the army. Yukie says goodbye, and Noge is going to China. Madame Yagihara tells her husband that Yukie is going to Tokyo. He asks her to think of her mother, but Yukie wants to start her life over.
In 1941 Yukie sees Itokawa in Tokyo and learns he is married. He says Noge is in Tokyo. After hesitating, Yukie sees Noge. She says she has a secret, but he is silent. She is worried that Itokawa will tell the police about Noge. She wants to be with Noge despite the risk. Yukie is glad she married Noge but can't write to her parents. Noge tells Yukie that he completed a project. He has not seen his parents in years but has no regrets. Noge goes out and is arrested. Men question Yukie about Noge, but she does not answer. Yukie sits in jail, and the prosecutor says Noge tried to stop the war. Radio reports on December 8 that Japan is at war with the US and the British. At the prosecutor's office Professor Yagihara tells Itokawa that he will defend Noge, but Itokawa says that Noge died in his cell.
At home Yukie runs from her father. As she cries, he says she was married to a great man. Yukie packs to go to Noge's parents. Yukie watches Noge's mother (Haruko Sugimura) dig the grave. Yukie begs to stay with them, peasants who are called spies. Yukie works in the field with a hoe. Yukie goes out among whispering and name-calling. She carries a burden and works with Madame Noge. Yukie hears Noge's voice saying he has no regrets. The two women plant rice. Yukie has a fever and collapses. Madame Noge cries because someone destroyed the paddies. Yukie sees signs saying "Keep out. Traitors." They remove the signs and plant again. Itokawa finds Yukie and laughs, but she forbids him to visit Noge's grave. Professor Yagihara tells students how Noge sacrificed himself for peace and happiness. Yukie tells her mother that she found her roots and is a cultural leader in the village. Yukie sees students and gets a ride on a truck with peasants.
This drama shows how difficult it was to stand up against
Japanese militarism in the 1930s and early 1940s. Yet the spiritual
power of their sacrifice is seen in the students applauding the
courage of their actions.