The Burmese Harp

1956

Drama / Music / War

83
IMDb Rating 8.1 10 5,139

Synopsis


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June 16, 2020

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1.04 GB
1280*720
Japanese 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
116 min
P/S N/A / N/A
1.93 GB
1920×1080
Japanese 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
116 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by rmahaney4 9 / 10 / 10

"Down in Burma, the soil is red. So are rocks"

`I cannot leave the bones lying scattered on the hills.' More melodramatic than his harrowing Fires On The Plain, Kon Ichikawa's The Burmese Harp is still an excellent film and a fascinating glimpse at another perspective of the 2nd World War than the usual (myopic and infantile) Hollywood triumphalism. As with many Japanese films from this period, from Kurosawa to Godzilla, it has an elegiac and reflective quality to it born of the shock and disillusionment that followed the war. I personally was a little uncomfortable with the first 20 minutes of the film that were a little hokey with the singing platoon trying to slip through the forests of Burma to the Thai frontier. However, the film really begins to become compelling and very poetic with the character Mizushima's mission to Triangle Mountain and his voyage south to Mudon to rejoin his unit now in prison camp. Undergoing a symbolic `death' and injured, he is nursed by a priest, but steals the priest's garb as a disguise. However, on the way he passes great numbers of Japanese and is horrified by what he sees. When he arrives at his destination and is staying at a monastery, one monk comments, `You seem to have come through such severe hard training.' He cannot return to his unit. He is determined to bury the dead, to extend empathy to each of them and to pray for their souls. The physical journey is symbolic of a physiological and spiritual journey and is some very creative and effective storytelling. There is much more to the movie, plot wise and thematically, than this, but this is what impressed me most. The imagery is incredible whether it is raindrops collecting and then running along barbed wire, dripping off; or the mud along the riverbanks; or the scene of Mizushima burying corpses at the river, a few villagers standing behind, watching; or the priest bathing in the river; or the shot of Mizushima disappearing into the mist. There is one moment in the prison camp which occurs during a rainstorm. I was really impressed with the natural lighting which gave me the sense of being there. I have looked out windows on days like that as those characters are and the experience "feels like that scene looks". It is incredible how evocative the Japanese films of the period were. The film reminded me of Stone's Platoon with similar music, symbolism, characters, and melodrama. It also seems to have affinities with Apocalypse Now, in that the central concern is not action or tension (though they do not lack these qualities) but potent ideas and a sense of mystery. Both Apocalypse and Harp involve `pilgrimages' and characters transformed by the horror of the situation. They both involve characters unable to return home after this evolution. I do not know if either of these films was influenced by The Burmese Harp, but if they were they modeled on an excellent and moving predecessor. Akira Ifukube's score is classic and will probably sound somewhat familiar to the viewer. He has scored nearly 260 films, including films in the popular Zatoichi series and many of Toho's sci-fi films.

Reviewed by tlarry858 9 / 10 / 10

The Burmese Harp is a poignant elegy to the failure of Japanese imperialism.

The Burmese Harp (Biruma no tategoto) is a poignant elegy to the failure of Japanese imperialism in World War II and a plea for a more humanistic world. Because it is a Japanese film and portrays events from the perspective of a proud, yet defeated nation, the story it tells is doubly moving. Released in 1956, director Kon Ichikawa's film was made while Japan was still recovering from the effects of war and a full decade before the nation's economy improved on world markets and the international prestige of Japan's technology began its remarkable climb. Born on November 20, 1915, Kon Ichikawa is considered one of Japan's leading directors. Ichikawa's first major film, A Girl of Dojo Temple (1946), was a puppet version of a Kabuki play. The American Occupation authorities confiscated the film because its script had not been submitted for their approval. Ichikawa's early films were often comedies or satires-a rarity in Japanese cinema-and earned him the appellation of the "Japanese Frank Capra." Ichikawa first achieved fame in the West with The Burmese Harp, which won the San Giorgio Prize in 1956 at the Venice International Film Festival. The events depicted in The Burmese Harp are on the surface quite simple. The viewer becomes aware of the film's symbolic and allegorical nature only later on in the film. The story concerns a small band of Japanese soldiers who are fighting in a remote part of Burma, unaware that the unconditional surrender of Japan took place three days earlier. One of the band, Private Mizushima (Shoji Yasui), plays a harp to wile away the time and to entertain his comrades. The ranking officer, Captain Inouye (Rentaro Mikuni), is a former musician, and his soldiers relish the music of the harp and the joy of singing together. But this love of music signifies more than just a temporary release from the stresses of men at war. The men's singing becomes a leitmotif throughout the film and a symbol for the community of spirit that binds them all together. Music functions in the film as a semi-religious, semi-mystical force that has the power to unify and to heal. Melody is equated with the life of the spirit and the joy of home and happier times. The discord of war is heightened by the presence of this music in the midst of palpable fears, where sudden death is not the most frightening, and a painful, lingering death from starvation or wounds is a very real possibility for each man. In a wonderful early scene, Mizushima and his comrades confront British troops as night falls. In the midst of a small celebration, the men learn that British troops are nearby and watching them. But the Japanese continue singing casually in an effort to gain time to ready themselves for battle. But the disguise is not really necessary, as the British themselves burst into song and the two nationalities blend in an instance of peace and harmony with renditions of "There's No Place Like Home." The Burmese harp itself is a central symbol in the film that serves to define Mizushima and his quest. The harp is an element of stability in the lives of all of the men. But have the men have gained their separate peace?

Reviewed by howard.schumann 9 / 10 / 10

A universal testament to the horror of war

Based on a novel by Michio Takeyama, The Burmese Harp was the first film that brought director Kon Ichikawa to international attention. It is the story of Mizushima (Shoji Yasui) a Japanese soldier in Burma at the close of World War Two who is sent on a mission by his Captain to inform another unit of the Japanese surrender and to convince them to stop fighting. When the unit refuses to give up and are destroyed by the British Army, only Mizushima remains alive and must come to terms with his nation's defeat. Pretending to be a Buddhist monk, he undergoes a religious conversion when he comes face to face with the staggering amount of death and destruction he sees as he travels across the region in search of his unit. Determined to honor and bury the dead, Mizushima is conflicted about remaining in Burma to live a life of service or returning to Japan to help rebuild his own country. The film takes its name from a Burmese harp acquired by Mizushima. He has become an expert harpist and plays while the soldiers sing beautiful chorales with a sound so lush it feels as if it is coming from the Mormon Tabernacle. While the depiction of the soldiers may be idealized, The Burmese Harp transcends its limitations to become a universal testament not only to the madness that prevailed in Burma, but to the unspeakable horror of all war. Ichikawa, in spite of the fact that film became a classic, loved the story so much that he filmed it again in 1985.

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