Burmese Harp Reviews
Biruma no Tategoto was based on a book by the author Michio Takeyama specifically designed to introduce children to the fundamental principles of Buddhism. Regardless of that, the story has a universal appeal, having an empathetic message of humanism just like the post-war Japanese films had, including Masaki Kobayashi.
Ichikawa's adaptation intentions of this emotionally powerful story are, in my humble opinion, two:
I. The first innert protagonist to play a role is music. Music, as any other art form including cinema, is an exteriorization of the contents of the soul. It is through art that we unravel the most meaningful content of life and its content, and most importantly, us. In a similar way the monolith in Kubrick's space adventure would be placed in key moments of human evolution, music intervenes in the story at key points during the evolution of the plot, and most importantly, throughout Mizushima's epiphanic journey. It is a form of communication with two peculiar characteristics: it wasn't made for receiving feedback (as in, music speaks but does not listen), and it can be spoken with multiple voices sharing a common sentiment. Such sentiment strengthens human bonds and even has the capacity of establishing commonoly shared norms in a society. Music can also relief pain and cure the consequences of loneliness.
II. One of the most saddening conclusions I have come to during my short 23-year-long stay in this world is that most of us require events of a magnitude much more superior to ours in order to open our eyes to greater truths. Some of those truths were not meant to be understood by us. They are axiomatic, even if not self-evident or obvious. We are governed by absolutes, and the unsurpassable value of human life is one of them. We were all created equal, so human conflicts should be left out of life's equation. That is one of the discoveries of Mizushima. You may attack his moral with yours, because he may be more helpful aiding his country directly, staying with his loved ones, but the truth is that you don't know. People require help everywhere. Japan's respect both to death and to the effort that the living must put to ensure that the lost souls can find eternal rest with a proper burial and rituals are activities that do not coincide with my beliefs, yet I find them extremely honorable and empathetic.
Once again, Japan reinforces its king status in black-and-white cinematography, in creating engaging stories with meaningful content, and in creating complex character studies. This time, war is not a central topic; rather, it was the perfect excuse for the film's delivery of its messages.