In this scene when Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San is assassinated, the viewer is introduced to the scene with a long shot of General Aung San arriving at the Secretariat building for a meeting with the executive council in Rangoon, Burma on Saturday, the 19th of July 1947. General Aung San, the deputy chairman of Burma’s interim government for the British military, was conducting a meeting with six of his cabinet ministers to prepare for the transfer of power from Britain to Burma. However, General U Saw, the ringleader of the Myochit (Patriot) Party conflicted strongly with General Aung San and what he wanted to achieve. This conflict later resulted in General U Saw being convicted and executed for conspiracy of murder, after he ordered military rebels to shoot down General Aung San and other cabinet ministers involved in the executive meeting.

 

The director of this film, Luc Besson effectively uses a range of visual and verbal techniques in order to display his auteur style and enhance the suspense in this scene and many others throughout this film. A compelling verbal technique in this scene was the use of music, it increased suspension and helped climax to significant points throughout this scene. The first main use of music in this scene was, the deep eery, swooping sounds surrounding General Aung San as he walks down the corridor of the Secretariat building. This eery use of music ignites a suspicion in the viewer, that a monumental event is going to take place. When the military rebels begin to gather and assemble for the assassination, the climaxing, shaking percussion instruments mixed with the whipping sounds over a baseline of deep drums, builds tension and uncertainty within the viewer about the situation that’s about to occur. As there’s no dialogue between the rebels in this scene, we rely heavily on the music and the actor’s body language to engage us and understand the scene. I believe the way Luc Besson has incorporated music into this scene allows us as the viewer to feel the tension between characters General Aung San and General U Saw, which ultimately enlightens us to the same tension seen between democracy and dictatorship, for the country of Burma. I think Luc Besson relied on the music to represent this tension instead of using dialogue because, their is little face to face communication between these two characters or the two parties. Therefore, the music is a more accurate representation of their non-verbal relationship. This teaches us as the viewer that communication in any relationship is key. Wether the connection is positive or negative, without communication it locks the relationship in a point of stagnation, ultimately restricting the possibility for the relationship to build. Therefore, communication is key in order for any relationship in life to evolve which I think is extremely important to remember when we’re faced with conflict in life as it’s often easier just to forget about the situation.

 

Luc Besson’s choice of music over dialogue in this scene is a style of film that’s often used by auteurs, called the cinema du look. This is a way of film in which favours style over substance and spectacle over narrative. This scene is a prime example of this style of film as little dialogue is exchanged between the two conflicting parties. He’s used visual and verbal techniques such as music to display the strain between the two contrasting perspectives, democracy and dictatorship. Following the climactic build up as the military rebels approached the council chamber, a sudden stop in the music is silenced by a single hit of a bass drum. This contrasting sudden drop in music levels creates impact on the scene and commands our attention. Similar to the contrast between democracy and dictatorship, these two contrasting views about the way a country should be run, draws the viewer’s attention in as we become invested in the political party that resonates most with your values. Therefore the sudden drop in music grabs our attention to see what happens next, reflecting the attentiveness of the Burmese people to see what the future of their country would hold.  As the armed military rebels break through the doors of the council chamber the silence is replaced by an eery swooping sound before a pan flute is introduced to the scene. The use of the pan flute lets off spiritual feeling as General Aung San is held at gunpoint. This calming, spiritual type of music from the pan flute symbolises how calm General Aung San is, not only as a person but as a leader. When General Aung San is held at gunpoint he shows no fear in his face, he remains calm and collected as he looks down the barrel of death. The pan flute often represents a calm, blissful feeling, therefore this choice of musical instrument during the scene reinforces the calmness of General Aung San. As gunfire commences, the music promptly cuts out. Going from the pan flute to zero music and only the sound of gunfire, again represents the contrast between democracy and dictatorship. The pan flute symbolises democracy as the way a democratic party often runs a country, has shown to be much more calming opposed to a dictatorship such as North Korea, which has shown to be harmful for the people living under these orders. Therefore, the diegetic noise from the military rebels guns firing, effectively symbolises the nature of dictatorship.

 

Luc Besson’s use of the cinema du look continues throughout a large amount of this film. However, other visual and verbal film techniques are also used to give the viewer a deeper understanding of the meaning behind every scene. These underlying meanings ultimately are used to contribute to the overall plot and major theme’s throughout this film such as, the conflict between Democracy and Dictatorship.

 

In the second scene that I’ll be analysing from this film, the preparation for a public rally for the National League of Democracy is being set up for Aung San Suu Kyi to speak at. However, as Aung San Suu Kyi’s helpers are assembling the venue, they’re unwilling stopped and forced to take down the democracy banners by the Burmese military. As Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at the venue, she’s surrounded by hundreds of supportive, loving fans. However, as Aung San Suu Kyi gets closer to the stand, she’s greeted by a line of Burmese military soldiers pointing their guns towards her. The conflict between Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese military general is evident in this scene and continues to build throughout. Again this conflict has arisen due to the differences between democracy and dictatorship. Aung San Suu Kyi is demanded to remain back or they will shoot her, however, she bravely goes against orders and individually walks closer to the General. After walking through a line of gunmen in a calm matter, Aung San Suu Kyi is faced by a military general at gunpoint, threatening to shoot her from a meter away which shows how she’s willing to die for her country. As Aung San Suu Kyi closes her eyes as if she’s about to die, the Burmese military uncharacteristically, decide to abort their mission and leave the democratic supporters alone.

 

Throughout this scene, Luc Besson’s savvy choice of film techniques makes it easy for the viewer to feel the tension and conflict between democracy and dictatorship. We’re introduced to this scene with a low angle shot of the National League of Democracy flag which dolly’s backwards into a long shot, displaying a group of people working together to set up the venue. Not only does the low angle that this shot is taken from, make the flag look dominant, it symbolises doing something bigger than yourself. As Democracy isn’t about working as individuals and instead, as a collective to achieve a mutual goal. This camera angle that Luc Besson has chosen, subtlety but successfully represents the meaning behind the National League of Democracy flag. When the camera tracks backwards and we see a long shot of a group of National League of Democracy helpers setting up the venue, it’s noticeable that these people are working collectively to achieve a goal and therefore their actions also symbolize democracy. The democratic helpers that are preparing the venue are dressed in a fairly relaxed way, wearing lightly coloured shirts which supports their non-violent way of running as a political party as it’s a calming, non-intimidating colour. This shows contrast compared to the Burmese military who are dressed in full army green with red highlights. Notably, the Burmese military soldiers are wearing red scarves around their necks. During the assassination of General Aung San, the military rebels that shot him tied the same red scarves around their neck before killing him. In Burmese culture, when the military are wearing red scarves it shows they have authority to kill. Therefore, these red scarves have meaning in this film because they’re a symbol of manslaughter. The way Luc Besson has incorporated the red scarves into the costumes is clever as it ignites the suspicion in the viewer that manslaughter may occur during this scene.

 

As this scene unfolds, the difference in body language seen between the democratic supporters opposed to the dictated Burmese military, represents the contrast seen between these two parties as a whole. The democratic supporters, all seem very calm and collected, not making too many fast movements throughout the entire scene. The Burmese military however, seem very frantic and busy, frequently making very erratic, loud movements. I believe Luc Besson did this in order to convey a message not only about the differences between the two characters, but also, about how the two parties run as a whole. The democratic party seems to make very calm, smart and well thought out decisions opposed to the dictatorship who make very random, irrational decisions. From Luc Besson’s choice of body language in the characters, I learnt that it’s often best in times of distress to take a step back from the situation. To be cool, calm and collected is a much healthier mindset to be in when making very defiant decisions. Considering the dictating parties irrational decisions often come back to bite them later on, it’s obvious that it’s more beneficial to take your time, be calm and think clearly before making a decision like Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratic party do. The difference in how these two characters carry themselves becomes very apparent when the Burmese military soldiers are ordered to “prepare to shoot” at Aung San Suu Kyi. Luc Besson’s use of camera angles during this scene amplifies the difference between these two characters body language. The close up shots of Aung San Suu Kyi’s face as she walks towards and confronts the military general, displays how even when she’s in a tense situation, she’s calm and composed. These close up shots focusing on the actor’s expression allows us as a viewer to really feel the character’s emotion. Aung San Suu Kyi’s composure, again relates back to her pursuit for democracy in the country of Burma. Her tranquillity throughout being confronted shows how she can remain calm under times of distress, relating back to how the democratic party make intelligent, rational decisions during the times when it’s most needed. Luc Besson’s mixture of close up shots and the calm body language are effective film techniques in displaying the composure of Aung San Suu Kyi and how this relates back to the composure of the National League of Democracy. These intelligent camera techniques used by Luc Besson continue throughout this scene.

 

Another significant image in this scene is a mid, side profile tracking shot, displaying Aung San Suu Kyi walking through the lineup of gunmen. This image is significant in the fact that it signifies how one lady can hold more power than a group of armed military soldiers. As this film is based on the extraordinary actions of one single woman and her pursuit for achieving something that was bigger than herself, I feel this is an extremely powerful shot as it captures Aung San Suu Kyi’s calmness throughout taking extreme risks in her actions and displays the dominance and influence that this women had created throughout her unselfish actions. This shot teaches us as the viewer that violence isn’t the most effective way to solve conflict. The final significant shot that Luc Besson used in this scene, once again shows Aung San Suu Kyi’s composure but also ties direct links back to the assassination of her father, General Aung San. Luc Besson used an extreme close up shot of Aung San Suu Kyi’s eyes closing, as the military general counts down the seconds before he shoots her to death. This is the exact same shot used just before General Aung San was shot by military rebels in the beginning of the film. Luc Besson used a flash back of this shot to show the similarities between Aung San Suu Kyi and her father. The extreme close up shot displays how they had the ability to remain composed when looking down the barrel of death and how they were both willing to die fighting for the democracy of Burma. This is an extremely expressive shot and relates back to Luc Besson’s use of the cinema du look. The extreme close up shot of the two characters eyes closing, enabled the viewer to really read the character and show how composed they were moments before death. As we’re able to feel the emotion through image instead of narrative, I believe this is a prime example of the cinema du look. Fortunately, what followed when Aung San Suu Kyi closed her eyes, didn’t result in the same outcome as her father. However, I think the way Luc Besson tied these two scenes together using the same extreme close up camera shots, was extremely effective as it showed the similarities between these two extremely influential humans and how they coped under times of severe confrontation.

 

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  1. Very detailed responses, Finn. You have one lesson today to:
    – Strengthen the technical accuracy (spelling, punctuation)
    – Add paragraph breaks in each scene analysis when you have a shift in focus.
    – Possibly include lines which summarise the overall purpose of the scenes- what was the director trying to achieve?

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