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The Burmese Harp (1956)
"Biruma no tategoto" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Music, War  |  28 April 1967 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 3,840 users  
Reviews: 40 user | 44 critic

In the War's closing days, when a conscience-driven Japanese soldier fails to get his countrymen to surrender to overwhelming force, he adopts the lifestyle of a Buddhist monk.



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Title: The Burmese Harp (1956)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Rentarô Mikuni ...
Captain Inouye
Jun Hamamura ...
Taketoshi Naitô ...
Kobayashi (as Takeo Naito)
Shunji Kasuga ...
Kô Nishimura ...
Baba (as Akira Nishimura)
Keishichi Nakahara ...
Toshiaki Ito ...
Hiroshi Hijikata ...
Tomio Aoki ...
Norikatsu Hanamura ...
Sanpei Mine ...
Takashi Koshiba ...
Tomoko Tonai
Tokuhei Miyahara ...


Mizushima is a soldier in the Japanese army in Burma in World War II. He's a good soldier and frequently plays his harp to entertain his fellow soldiers. When the war comes to an end, he is asked by the British to go into the mountains to try and convince a Japanese troop to surrender. Given only 30 minutes to convince them, Mizushima is unsuccessful - they would rather die with honor - and the British attack. Deeply affected by what has happened, he becomes a Buddhist monk, traveling the countryside burying the remains of Japanese soldiers. He is unable however to rejoin his brothers-in-arms. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Music | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »





Release Date:

28 April 1967 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Burmese Harp  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film was originally slated to shoot in three-strip color, but director Kon Ichikawa worried that the huge camera might break down on location and he would not be able to have it fixed, so he shot in black-and-white. See more »


The 'British' officer in charge of the funerary cremation repository speaks with a decidedly Australian, not British, accent. See more »


Mizushima: [to his parrot] Let's return to Japan together.
See more »


Remade as The Burmese Harp (1985) See more »


One Sweetly Solemn Thought
Music by Phillip Phillips
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User Reviews

A unique use of WWII as a stage
5 June 2006 | by (Ronn Ives/FUTURES Antiques, Norfolk, VA.) – See all my reviews

"The Burmese Harp" ("Biruma No Tategoto") (Japanese, 1956): What a powerful film. Directed by Kon Ichikawa ("Fires on the Plain"), this story is set during the last days of WWII, in Burma, with a troop of Japanese soldiers. They are weary, confused, but very bonded. When they learn their country has surrendered, with mixed emotions they submit and head to a P.O.W. camp to be detained until arrangements for their fates are made. One of them volunteers to go find a die-hard troop still "dug in" and unwilling to surrender, and ask them to give up, lest they be destroyed by who are now the victors. Thus begins his journey of spiritual awakening. Think of this as the story of Siddhartha, but on a clear, human level. It is gorgeous in its black & white compositions and lighting, slightly theatrical in its scenarios, and quite emotional. "The Burmese Harp" is a unique use of WWII as the stage for larger issues. Superb.

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