Yukinojo, a Kabuki actor, seeks revenge by destroying the three men who caused the deaths of his parents. Also involved are the daughter of one of Yukinojo's targets, two master thieves, and a swordsman who himself is out to kill Yukinojo.
Mizushima is a soldier in the Japanese army in Burma in World War II. He's a good soldier and frequently plays his harp to entertain his fellow soldiers. When the war comes to an end, he is asked by the British to go into the mountains to try and convince a Japanese troop to surrender. Given only 30 minutes to convince them, Mizushima is unsuccessful - they would rather die with honor - and the British attack. Deeply affected by what has happened, he becomes a Buddhist monk, traveling the countryside burying the remains of Japanese soldiers. He is unable however to rejoin his brothers-in-arms. Written by
According to the Bloomsbury Foreign Film Guide by Ronald Bergan and Robyn Karney, this World War II film was "one of the first Japanese films concerned with pacifist themes related to the defeat of Japan in 1945." See more »
The 'British' officer in charge of the funerary cremation repository speaks with a decidedly Australian, not British, accent. See more »
Voice of Mizushima's parrot:
No, I can't go back.
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Based on a novel by Michio Takeyama, The Burmese Harp was the first film that brought director Kon Ichikawa to international attention. It is the story of Mizushima (Shoji Yasui) a Japanese soldier in Burma at the close of World War Two who is sent on a mission by his Captain to inform another unit of the Japanese surrender and to convince them to stop fighting. When the unit refuses to give up and are destroyed by the British Army, only Mizushima remains alive and must come to terms with his nation's defeat. Pretending to be a Buddhist monk, he undergoes a religious conversion when he comes face to face with the staggering amount of death and destruction he sees as he travels across the region in search of his unit. Determined to honor and bury the dead, Mizushima is conflicted about remaining in Burma to live a life of service or returning to Japan to help rebuild his own country.
The film takes its name from a Burmese harp acquired by Mizushima. He has become an expert harpist and plays while the soldiers sing beautiful chorales with a sound so lush it feels as if it is coming from the Mormon Tabernacle. While the depiction of the soldiers may be idealized, The Burmese Harp transcends its limitations to become a universal testament not only to the madness that prevailed in Burma, but to the unspeakable horror of all war. Ichikawa, in spite of the fact that film became a classic, loved the story so much that he filmed it again in 1985.
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