The Burmese Harp (ビルマの竪琴, Biruma no tategoto?) was based on a children’s novel written by Takeyama Michio.
It is also known as Harp of Burma). This 1956 black-and-white Japanese film was remade in 1985 in colour and with different actors. Both are directed by Kon Ichikawa. The film was nominated for the 1957 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Burmese Harp begins in July of 1945, just days before the dropping of the first atomic bomb, which soon led to Japan’s surrender.
To sum up this film in a sentence is about a turncoat. The beauty of this film stems from what is often used in a bad sense. Especially a turncoat is one who turns back on a cause he is committed to. In this case the central character is a soldier. If he is a turncoat to the cause of killing, well I say the world needs more of such turncoats. In a perfect world the only cause we need to know is a commitment to life. Since we are in this imperfect world this movie is all the more reason to be included among 100 best films of my generation. Cpl. Mizushima(Shoji Yasui), a Japanese soldier, becomes the harp (or) saung player of Captain Inouye’s group, comprised of soldiers who fight and sing to raise morale in World War II, Burmese campaign.
It was the bard of Avon who said,’the clothes maketh the man.’ This adage is very much put to test in this memorable anti-war movie. Set against the final days of World War II, a group of exhausted, war-scarred Japanese soldiers prepare to return to Japan. The film focuses on Cpl Mizushima who is sent to a company of soldiers who refuse to believe the war is over. He is presumed dead when a battle destroys their hillside encampment. To rejoin his fellow soldiers, Shoji steals the robes of a Buddhist monk and begins to make his way across the countryside. But along the way, he realizes from the hundreds of abandoned, unburied war casualties that he was on the wrong side as a perpetrator; significance of his cloth, takes hold of him as he tends to the bodies. Hundreds of Japanese soldiers’ corpses are rotting in piles and being devoured by vultures. After watching a British medical team bury the body of an unknown Japanese soldier with grace and dignity, Mizushima realizes his mission in life will be to bury each of his dead comrades, a gruesome task that he begins immediately. As a soldier’s uniform made each of these end up a prey to vultures on an alien land he assigns his monks robes as a call to duty far above violence. Meanwhile, Shoji’s friends mount a search for him, eventually noticing the monk to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance.
Mizushima’s colleagues try everything they can to persuade him to rejoin them, even delivering to him a talking parrot that they teach to say “Hey, Mizushima, let’s go back to Japan together.” In the film’s most amazing moments, he stands outside the prison fence silently appearing nothing short of Christ-like as he plays his harp along with the singing of his mystified and tearful friends.
Rentaro Mikuni – Captain Inouye
Shôji Yasui – Cpl. Mizushima
Jun Hamamura – Pvt. Ito
Taketoshi Naito – Pvt. Kobayashi
Ko Nishimura Baba (as Akira Nishimura)
Directed by Kon Ichikawa
Produced by Masayuki Takagi
Written by Takeyama Michio (novel),
Release date) 21 January 1956
Running time 116 minutes
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930, Lewis Milestone)
Fires on the Plain (1959, Kon Ichikawa)
Human Condition, Part 1: No Greater Love (1958, Masaki Kobayashi)
Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Biruma No Tatekoto (1985, Kon Ichikawa)
The Makioka Sisters (1983, Kon Ichikawa)
Enjo (1958, Kon Ichikawa)
Odd Obsession (1959, Kon Ichikawa)
The Outcast (1962, Kon Ichikawa)
47 Ronin (1994, Kon Ichikawa)
Visions of Eight: The Olympics of Motion Picture Achievement (1973, Milos Forman, Kon Ichikawa, Claude Lelouch, Yuri Ozerov, Arthur Penn, Michael Pfleghar, John Schlesinger, Mai Zetterling)
The Tokyo Olympiad (1965, Kon Ichikawa)
Other Related Movies
is related to: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, William Wyler)