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✷In the Spotlight✷
Title: "The Burmese Harp"
Directed by / Year: Ichikawa Kon, 1956.
Review: It’s the year 1945 and the end of the war. Japan has surrendered and suffered tremendous damage. Captain Inouye’s (Rentarô Mikuni) Imperial Japanese Army regiment are moving towards the borders of Thailand, far away from their homeland, unaware of the outcome. Inouye have been educated in music and together with Mizushima (Shôji Yasui), who has a natural talent for the Burmese harp, they inspire the group to sing, motivating them all through their suffering. Music (and even parrots) is used as a brilliant substitute for communication in many scenes in the film, provoking strong feelings.
They are located in Burma when they encounter the british in a small village. However, they soon realize that they are not their enemies when the british are walking out of their hiding spot, singing the same song Inouye’s regiment used to sing. They soon join in and this is just one of many moments in the film that gave me the goosebumps. There they hear the news that Japan has surrendered and agrees to be taken prisoners by the british, but they are treated quite well. Private Mizushima is sent on a lone mission to persuade another Japanese battalion, trapped in the mountains, to surrender. The outcome is a failure and he wakes up, after an attack by the british, among the ruins and the dead. Mizushima decides to desert and disguises himself as a Buddhist monk while wandering the desolate plains of Burma, going through starvation and burying fallen soldiers. In the process he witnesses the true face of war, all the sorrow, death, suffering and eventually stumbles upon spiritual enlightenment. The Burmese Harp is magnificent in every way, the well-composed cinematography in hushed black and white, the acting, the score and the story. Astonishing scenery with the burmese landscapes, forests, mountaints and Buddhist temples. This film will always be with me and it’s indeed one of Japanese cinema’s most overwhelming antiwar statements.
☯ GEMS of ASIAN CINEMA ￨ by Kemetic Science. ☯