Burmese Harp - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Burmese Harp Reviews

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August 13, 2016
As Ebert once said, "I hated, hated, hated, hated this movie." Maybe if you're into totally inexplicable plot devices like choral singing WWII troops, fake prop harps, silly anti-war heart string tugging, the most boring long stretches of nothing happening that one can possibly do, and super long letters read aloud, this could be your movie.
October 19, 2014
Often moving tale of a Japanese regiment at the end of WWII that surrenders to the British in Burma. This company is different because of their fondness for singing (often "Home Sweet Home" in Japanese, which is used for sentimental purposes but still evokes wistfulness). One of their number, Mizushima, is nominated to encourage another Japanese platoon, holed up in a mountain fortress, to finally surrender - however, they disbelieve that the war is over and are killed by the Brits. Mizushima himself is injured but resuscitated back to life by a Buddhist monk. Mizushima steals this monk's garb to make the journey back to join his regiment but the horrors that he sees (scores of unburied bodies) and remembers lead him to take a vow to stay in Burma as a real monk to make certain that all the bodies are buried. His old squad members cannot understand. Ichikawa makes excellent use of location shooting in Burma, often showing his characters nearly hidden in the landscape (suggesting the enormity of the situation in which they are engulfed). Some say this film ignored the real war crimes committed in Burma but it is assuredly pacifist and anti-war.
September 23, 2014
A young harp-playing soldier gets separated from his unit & disguises himself as a Buddhist monk to search for them. Along his existential journey, he gives into the yearning for truths & turns away from his soldier life altogether in this subtle but powerful antiwar Buddhist bromance.
½ May 21, 2014
A great groundbreaking film. At first I thought it would be horribly depressing, but instead it was deeply touching. Accompanied by beautiful harp and men's choir music I was reminded of the simple beauties of life, and was left with the idea that even in times of horrible suffering it is not our place to try and understand why life is so terrible but rather how we can make it better.
March 8, 2014
An effective antiwar film, but overall a little uneven.
February 2, 2014
he film was nominated for the 1957 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, during the first year that such a category existed
½ February 2, 2014
another WWII movie post WWII
January 3, 2014
The premise to this film is commendable and the cinematography is pretty good throughout, but everything else... it's long-winded, a bit repetitive, the flashback sequence is slightly confusing, the audio levels go up and down like crazy, the version I watched had subtitles out of sync with the audio and most of it was as miserable as hell. I just about went the distance. 6/10
Super Reviewer
December 21, 2013
The soil of Burma is red, and so are its rocks...

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.

½ December 11, 2013
The Burmese Harp is a poignant elegy to the failure of Japanese imperialism--An universal testament to the horror of war!!
June 28, 2013
A great anti-war film by one of the Japanese masters. I love the stark black and white cinematography in this film, the harp music, and the overall tone of the film.
February 2, 2013
A well made emotional film.
January 20, 2013
a must for other points of view
January 13, 2013
Set in the final days of the second world war, a group of Japanese soldiers hangs on, inspired by Private Mizushima's Burmese harp playing. As the group makes their way to an internment camp for repatriation, one of the private volunteers tries to persuade another group to surrender, and says he will follow them to the camp once the mission will be completed. But when he fails to appear, his comrades desperately search him, eventually realising that Mizushima has undertaken a compelling spiritual journey inspired by the horrors of the war which he sees on his way to the camp. A masterpiece. Poetic and sublime, requires no violence to take an anti-war stance that is both haunting and effective as well as persuasive. Its philosophy is as enchanting and appealing as the music of the Burmese harp, while the photography adds to the spectacular feel of the film.
½ December 9, 2012
Incredibly humanistic and powerful anti-war film. Simple story, major enjoyment. One of the best movies I've seen in a long while.
November 9, 2012
A beautiful and deeply touching film. I haven't seen a WWII film this good in a very long time. It's not about war, but rather a return to honor. With a plot that's a "Bridge on the River Kwai" / "Saving Private Ryan" hybrid, I was gripped from the beginning to the bittersweet end.
October 21, 2012
should've known it long time ago . strongly suggest .
September 2, 2012
If this is the harp of burma in movie form I'd see it.
½ March 21, 2012
When a war has ended, can you ever truly go home? The answer to that question is the central tenet of this film's emotional journey, and it's a difficult one to take. A moving film, largely due to the music throughout.
Super Reviewer
January 1, 2012
A beautiful and moving film, Biruma no Tategoto (The Burmese Harp) is a terrific work by Mr. Ichikawa. With unforgettable actings, just like the screenplay and photography, the movie is an obligatory art film, that presents a powerful antiwar message. Fresh.
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