Harp of Burma
(Biruma no tategoto)
Rentaro Mikuni, Shoji Yasui, Tatsuya Mihashi, Tanie Kitabayashi,
A fatalistic elegy for the war dead, Harp of Burma links beauty with a sense of loss, and loss with salvation. Burma at the close of World War II is a no-man’s-land, a quiet emptiness where there used to be life. But the Himalayas still move villagers to dream and captured Japanese soldiers to sing in sweet harmony; Burma is still “Buddha’s country.” Mizushima, a harp-playing scout with the Japanese, is dispatched by the British to inform an obstinate fighting unit of Japan’s surrender. He arrives too late. What this simple man encounters leaves him gripped by an obsession, fated not to return home with his regiment but rather to remain in Burma as a monk, to bury the dead, pray for their souls, and in this way alleviate their suffering. In its haunting visuals shot against the large, gentle Buddhas of Burma, the film suggests that perspective is all: faced with death’s enormity, a soldier becomes a traveler through this world.