Burmese Harp - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Burmese Harp Reviews

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½ December 7, 2011
Like the film Fires on the Plain, The Burmese Harp is focused on the Japanese cost of war more so than the Burmese. While many probably still feel that there wasn't enough effort in classic Japanese war cinema to criticize itself on war atrocities, the grounds for peace in The Burmese Harp are completely valid. It is more than a step in the right direction.
½ November 1, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011

(1956) The Burmese Harp
(In Japanese with English subtitles)


Quite effective anti-war film with spiritual overtones which has to be seen to be believed just because it was based on an actual person, directed by Kon Ichikawa about the final days after WWII, focusing on a story about how a Japanese harp player working in part of a unit to being transformed to becoming a Burmese monk!

Extremely interesting part of Japanese history reflecting upon some of the fallen soldiers of Burma and has similar emotional overtones as the film "The Killing Fields" in 1984! I have no idea how can this film lost to the simplistic film "La Strada" for "Best Foreign Language" and not intentioned for the ignorant!

3.5 out of 4
Super Reviewer
½ September 9, 2011
A Kon Ichikawa work charged with sincerity and depth, The Burmese Harp explores the fraternal relationship in a brethren of World War II Japanese soldiers. Passionate. Melodious. Spiritual. Powerful. Enlightened.
½ June 18, 2011
Really good, powerful anti-war film.
Super Reviewer
½ May 31, 2011
Certainly, "The Burmese Harp" has a powerful premise. A small Japanese squad is stranded in Burma at the end of World War II. Now that Japan has officially surrendered, the men only want to return home. But one soldier stays behind, piously devoting himself to burying the Japanese corpses that litter the land.

So far, so good. But the execution of this story is surprisingly mawkish -- an unusual flaw considering that, if anything, Japanese movie characters tend to be too stoic. The problems begin with the music -- this delicate troop of choirboys loves nothing more than to burst into song. Naturally, their solemn, traditional hymns are delivered with perfect pitch and studio acoustics. The songs only seem cornier and more implausible as the film continues -- to give an idea of the script's subtlety, the most repeated tune is "Home, Sweet Home." There's even a second squad who turns up with a hidden talent for choral arrangements. Yup, it's a sing-off.

The weepy sentimentality is further upped by the overuse of talking parrots to convey heartfelt messages, plus the unlikelihood of soldiers in a prison camp being concerned with almost nothing except the fate of their one separated friend. It's all rather heavy-handed -- I found myself thinking of the preachier pacifist episodes of "The Twilight Zone."

If you can filter the above out of your experience and just focus on the philosophical journey of the wayward soldier Mizushima, "The Burmese Harp" holds its own as an affecting anti-war film.
½ January 8, 2011
this epic anti-war movie about Japanā(TM)s surrender in World War II is a haunting elegy on the theme of defeat, an achievement fully meriting this high-definition transfer, and essential for war-film devotees.One of the best Anti-war movie i ever seen after johnny got his gun
½ November 20, 2010
Beautifully shot and acted, this war drama shows the harsh realities of war with grace and tenderness, and the subtly of style which s markedly Japanese. It's a movie that stays with you.
October 22, 2010
Incredibly powerful film. This is surely one of Japan's masterpieces. One of the greatest war films ever made. It's not so much about the battles but focuses it's attention on the atrocities of war and what it does to the soul. Gives a lot of insight on the human condition. Also the singing and harp playing is really beutiful. The scene towards the end where the men finally see their long lost comrade dressed as a monk playing the harp as they sing to him is really amazing.

"The Burmese Harp" easily ranks alongside Kubrick's "Paths Of Glory" and Wyler's "The Best Years Of Our Lives" as one of the most powerful films about war. This can not be recommended anymore, it is a must see movie. The end started to bring tears to my eyes as just how beautifully sad yet hopeful the movie is. An amazing accomplishment by any standards. 10/10
September 15, 2010
On the surface The Burmese Harp is an anti-war film, but upon deeper viewing, it is an allegory about spirituality. After being nursed back to health by a Burmese monk, Mizushima takes on the monk?s traditions and tries to give the souls of all the fallen soldiers peace. The sound of Mizushima?s harp playing travels ghost-like through the air giving hope to his imprisoned comrades before culminating in the powerful scene where they meet and sing together once again.
The cinematography is highly appropriate for the subject matter of the film. There are many wide-angle pans throughout the film which highlight both things of beauty and things of horror. The black-and-white film emphasizes the juxtaposition of shadow and color. The result is a subdued feeling while watching the film. The imagery of the vast country, the sky, and of piles of dead soldiers combined with the sorrowful and soulful songs left me feeling morose through the duration of the film.
Ichikawa also uses many close-ups throughout the film. During the scene where the monk is nursing Mizushima, the camera cuts between close-ups of the monk to close-ups of a Burmese idol several times while Mizushima lies immobile. This is where his spiritual transformation takes place. The close-up was also used effectively during the scene where Mizushima?s feet are cut with the feet of his comrades. Mizushima was out walking in the country while the men were walking in the internment camp, but the camera cut back and forth between them as if they were still together.
Ichikawa was the perfect director for this film. Many directors would have turned the film into a blatant anti-war vehicle full of horrific scenes and excessive melodrama. Ichikawa handled the film with subtlety, however. His imagery fits flawlessly with the story and the music. The captain?s reading of the letter during the trip home is an incredibly touching scene which explains the meaning of the film so aptly. It is a fine and appropriate culmination to a lovely film.
½ August 20, 2010
This is a beautiful and meloncholic film. Although film does carry a moral message of pacifism and few people lable it as moralizing and sentimental, the movie is a joy to watch. The performance of the old lady, monk and the captain are heart warming.
And ofcourse, there is an added beauty of burmese culture.
½ July 13, 2010
The senselessness of war drives a Japanese soldier to a life of Buddhist monasticism as WWII draws to a close. A lovely portrait of spiritual turmoil and awakening, as well as a tribute to the soldiers of the Japanese army. The connection between spiritualism and music is underscored throughout the movie, to great effect. The symbolism can be a little heavy handed at times, but a great movie all the same, wonderfully realized, beautifully shot, and adeptly acted.
May 3, 2010
For being only 2 hours long this Japanese foreign film about a soldier dedicated to honoring his lost comrades sure does drag. Luckily there are enough powerful moments and fantastic musical numbers to keep it afloat. Tragic yet endearing, The Burmese Harp is a solid addition to anyone looking to get into foreign films.
½ March 26, 2010
A brilliant movie. The film had me in that first scene after the opening narration, as the tired soldiers sing out in the middle of the jungle, especially the extremely wide shot where they are barely visible on the hillside. The journey of the lead character from a simple soldier to a crusader motivated by his Buddhism is portrayed with sensitivity and tenderness. With choices like that, the film treats all its characters as human beings, people who suffer, yes, but who continue on in dignity despite of their trials.
½ March 18, 2010
Is a truly beuatiful film that captures a warm hearted nature of soldiers after war. Kon Ichikawa conveyed a realistic interpretation of the book but, kept the essence of the story. Although it is a extermely well made film, I can't help but ask does anyone else feel this movie had a serious romantic undertone? hint, hint.
March 10, 2010
One of the more powerful antiwar films I have seen. The focus is not only on the carnage of war but on how that carnage affects the survivors. Some stylistic elements may be a bit grandiose, but they don't detract from the powerful narrative.
February 16, 2010
If I were to teach a class in how to make a sadly beautiful and powerful movie, this film would be the first thing I'd show.The lessons in humanity, duty and honor are far reaching and the director's use of music, shadow and quality cinematography make this one of the best films I've ever seen.
February 2, 2010
If this is the harp of burma in movie form I'd see it.
January 31, 2010
This was such an awesome experience- it really is one of the most overwhelming anti-war statements ever committed to celluloid. Beautifully shot, directed, written, performed. A masterpiece. One of the great Japanese films.
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