Quick recap: Set during World War II, this movie follows a group of Japanese soldiers who have just crossed over into Burma, the main character being a guy who plays a Burmese harp. After being told the war is over, the Burmese Harp guy goes on a mission to find another group of soldiers to ask them to surrender instead of fighting to their death. The soldiers refuse and are all killed. Burmese harp guy is supposed to go back to his group who are currently in an internment camp but instead decides he would be more useful in other places.
Fun (?) fact: Godzilla’s requiem theme from the 1954 movie ‘Gojira’ can be heard during several parts of this film. Because nothing goes better together than a story of a Buddhist monk and Godzilla.
My thoughts: The Burmese Harp is a war movie in the sense that it is set during World War II and the characters are all soldiers. Thankfully, and I say that solely because I have had more than my share of war movies lately, the theme is less war centered and revolves instead around pacifist themes. Yay for not having to sit through confusing battle scenes and lots of blood and guts. Everything is coming up Mary!
The downside of making this sort of movie is that pacifism is sort of dull. The Burmese Harp is a beautiful film, don’t get me wrong, but ‘beautiful’ can only keep my attention for so long. The whole thing reminded me of reading Siddhartha when I was in high school. It too is a beautiful book about a man’s journey to spiritual fulfillment, but just know that if you choose to read it, don’t expect there to be much,if any, action. The only real action this movie has is when all of the Japanese soldiers are killed when they refuse to surrender. Even then you never really see a fight, just the aftermath. Also, that scene happens during the first half hour of the film while the next hour and a half is filled with a lot of walking and singing. Lots of walking and singing.
One thing I did enjoy about this film is watching Mizushima, the Burmese Harp guy, realize his calling. After being injured, he begins to make his way back to the internment camp to join his squad. On the way, he steals a Buddhist robe and also begins to take on the role of a monk. His journey takes him all the way across Burma where he sees bodies strewn about. He begins to bury and burn the bodies, hoping to give them a little bit of dignity in the end. I’m sure it must have been a very difficult decision to stay in a foreign land, adopt a new lifestyle and never see your friends again. But that’s sort of the point of being a monk, to put others before yourself.
I feel a little guilty for not being as in to this movie as I would’ve liked to be. It seems right up my alley, especially since I find myself identifying more with the pacifism side than the war side. But it just didn’t do much for me. I feel like this movie was made more for the Japanese people than me as an American. There was plenty to identify with and learn from, but in the end I felt like it would be more powerful for those who have lived through the horror directly.
Final review: 2/5. Not my cup of tea but a beautiful film, nonetheless.
Up next: HORRORFEST 2014