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The Burmese Harp 1956 Japanese war movie

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War Movies

While World War 2 had clearly split countries on two camps - Axis and more or less rest of the world - in cinema it wasn’t that clear, which is hardly surprising. After all not many people would like his own country being depicted as the bad guys, but rarely there were exceptions. The Burmese Harp deals with not World War 2 or heroism of the soldiers, but rather with what happens when the war ends.

During World War 2 unit of Japanese army travels through the jungles of Burma. Talented musician, Private Mizushima, helps his comrades in arms to deal with hardships of the every day service by playing a Burmese harp. After arriving to a small village Captain Inouye orders his soldiers to have a rest, but when he notices that the villagers have suddenly disappeared he suspects his unit could be in trap. The Allied solders are gathering in bushes around the village, while the Japanese realize they are actually are unarmed - their ammo and most of equipment was left aboard a cart in the middle of the village and they could not get it without putting themselves to a grave danger. Inouye orders his soldiers to pretend they have not spotted the British soldiers and pretend to have a good time while singing a song. They use this distraction to get the weapons and ammo and hide inside the hut. But the British do not plan to attack them - the war has ended few days earlier and there is no point in fighting any more.

The Burmese Harp offers quite unique look at the end of the war from Japanese perspective - the war is over, they have lost, but now they have to think about the future, not the past. Of course is isn’t easy, that’s why the Buddhist approach to the new reality is the most important overtone in that story. Of course The Burmese Harp lacks action scenes, that plot is a bit hard to follow, but it is one of the movies (like Das Boot or The Officer Factory for Germans) that gives a hint how it looked from the other side.


  • The film was originally slated to shoot in three-strip color, but director Kon Ichikawa worried that the huge camera might break down on location and he would not be able to have it fixed, so he shot in black-and-white.

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War movies

War movies blog - the best war movies in history (or sometimes the worst). We search the war movies from around the world - not only classic American war movies or British war movies, but also those less known or just less interesting films from other countries. Each of them presents the different face of the war - some concetrate on soldiers and most important battles in history, but others present the suffering of the civilians and the trauma of the men involved in the fighting.

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