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

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, Music, War  |  28 April 1967 (USA)
8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 3,748 users  
Reviews: 39 user | 43 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

Cast overview, first billed only:
Rentarô Mikuni ...
Captain Inouye
...
Mizushima
Jun Hamamura ...
Ito
Taketoshi Naitô ...
Kobayashi (as Takeo Naito)
Shunji Kasuga ...
Maki
Kô Nishimura ...
Baba (as Akira Nishimura)
Keishichi Nakahara ...
Takagi
Toshiaki Ito ...
Hashimoto
Hiroshi Hijikata ...
Okada
Tomio Aoki ...
Oyama
Norikatsu Hanamura ...
Nakamura
Sanpei Mine ...
Abe
Takashi Koshiba ...
Shimizu
Tomoko Tonai
Tokuhei Miyahara ...
Nagai
Edit

Storyline

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

Genres:

Drama | Music | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

28 April 1967 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Burmese Harp  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Kon Ichikawa said the original novel was treated as a fantasy, but he chose to eliminate that aspect of the story. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Captain Inouye: [Excerpt from Mizushima's letter, which Captain Inouye reads to his men as they sail back to Japan] As I climbed mountains and crossed streams, burying the bodies left in the grasses and streams, my heart was wracked with questions. Why must the world suffer such misery? Why must there be such inexplicable pain? As the days passed, I came to understand. I realized that, in the end, the answers were not for human beings to know, that our work is simply to ease the great suffering of the world. To...
See more »

Connections

Remade as The Burmese Harp (1985) See more »

Soundtracks

Ryoshu
("Dreaming of Home and Mother")
Written by John Pond Ordway
See more »

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User Reviews

A Japanese elegy
17 January 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is a film about the immediate aftermath of war from the perspective of the defeated. A Japanese company exhausted by their retreat through the Burmese jungle learn of their nation's surrender. At the request of their allied captors one of their number, Mizushima, agrees to journey to a mountain stronghold where another company is still holding out and engaging in combat. He tries to persuade his compatriots to lay down their arms and narrowly escapes death when they are massacred after refusing to give in. Appalled by the carnage around him, Mizushima decides not to return to his colleagues or country. Disguised as a Buddhist monk, he embarks on the task of laying to rest the war dead that would otherwise fall prey to the vultures. There is nothing in the way of plot beyond this. "The Burmese Harp" is that rare thing, a war film that does not rely on action. Rather does it attempt to define the innate dignity of a former aggressor attempting to salvage some sort of meaning through reparation rather than taking the comfortable course that peace can offer. Ichikawa's tender tribute to a form of saintliness sometimes totters on the tightrope of sentimentality and oversimplification - did ever weary soldiers sing more beautifully! - but by the end the message overrides all doubts. We are witnessing a proud expansionist nation coming to terms with collapse and attempting, through the powerful symbol of Mizushima, to expiate its past. Ichikawa made this film towards the end of the golden age of monochrome. that of Welles, Reed, Wyler and Ford. Like those giants he gives us wonderful closeups. "The Burmese Harp" abounds in evocative images of Burmese villagers, Buddhist monks and Japanese soldier that once seen leave an indelible impression within the mind.


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