In the film “The Lady”, the General of Burma, General Aung San is having a meeting with his council chamber on the 19th of July 1947 in Burma. His council chamber consists of six of his cabinet members and his brother, Ba Win, they are toasting to finally gaining independence in their country. Military rebels wearing red scarves, which symbolise the democratic ruling that they desire. These rebels are under the control of former president, U-Saw, they wish to see the military dictatorship stay in place, hence they assassinate General Aung San.

The opening of this scene starts off with General Aung San entering the government building in Rangoon, the capital or Burma. We are given an over the shoulder shot of him walking down a naturally lit hallway, it is almost as if we are walking down the hallway with him, and following him into his meeting with his chamber, and we will get to see the series of events that unfolds around him soon. Once he enter the room, there is an immediate atmosphere of peace and friendliness, he greets his chamber of commerce with a friendly, “good morning,” and everyone is respectful towards him. We also see once he enters the room, with the over the shoulder shot we see him standing in front of some ancient Burmese Spears, which shows that they are still staying in touch with their history, the spears coming up over his head, almost looks like some sort of crown or throne, and this gives us the image of showing us who is in power, which at this point is General Aung San.

When he walks in, we see a quick shot of him entering the room, and behind him there is a flag with the Union Jack on it, and it also features a peacock, which is one of the national animals for Burma, It is strongly associated with the anti-colonial nationalist movements and thus is popularly seen as the symbol of the Burmese state, and is also part of the flag that represents the alliance with the British. The shot of this flag shows their still existing connection between the two countries. The meaning for this meeting is about them finally gaining freedom and independence as their own country, and this is connected to the flag that is shown, and why they are all so friendly and positive towards each other. This character is a prime example of Luc Besson’s auteur styles, for example, “Principal/main characters (in spite of appearances) often show “integrity”, in their corrupt world,” this comes from Stuart Fernie’s analysis of Luc Besson’s reoccurring characteristics in his movies. Aung San is a perfect example of this re-occurring characteristic in his characters, as he is a symbol of freedom and peace in a country ruled by rebels and democracy. This also relates to another one of his character auteur styles, the principal or main character is a direct contrast to the dysfunctional authorities in their environment, where Aung San is a direct contrast to the authorities in the environment, being U-Saw and his dictatorship way of ruling the country, which doesn’t make sense to anyone but him and his men.

The scene then shifts to a close up camera angle of a guard smoking in the main area, and he then proceeds to throw the cigarette on the ground, which is a sign of disrespect, the lighting is more gloomy, which is a contrast to when Aung San is walking down the hallway, by making the hallway dark, it is like Luc Besson is trying to show that he is “bad”, compared to Aung San, who is “good”, as the hallway is light when he is walking. His body language and the look on his face gives the audience a sense of doubt to whether this guard is the same as the other guards. Once he starts walking, suspenseful music starts playing, and with an over the shoulder shot, we can see that another guard joins his cause, which as this point we are uncertain what it is, they do not say anything to each other, so it is obvious that this has already been planned. The camera then shifts to a behind the shoulder of another soldier, this one is wearing a red scarf around his neck, the colour red represents communism, and represents the blood of the workers who died in the struggle against capitalism. The eerie musics adds an atmosphere of uncertainty to the scene, every eighth beat there is a new instrument added to the orchestra, which correlates with the scene where there is a new communist soldier added every time there is a new instrument added. This part of the scene is one of the many examples of the Cinemas Du Look in Luc Besson’s movie, where he favours style of substance, as there is minimal dialogue, but we can tell what is happening in the scene by the visual story, and the audience can form their own view on what is happening here.

The three rebel guards that represent communism in this scene, all wearing the red scarves walk into the room, there is an immediate contrast between the members of Aung San’s chamber, and U-Saw’s soldiers, Aung San’s chamber members are all wearing light colours, such as orange and light green, whereas the rebel soldiers are all wearing a the dark green colour of democracy. The camera shifts to a close up to Aung San giving a speech about finally gaining freedom as a country, just as they are about to toast to their newly gained independence, the rebel soldiers burst through the door, and the council does not get to taste their drinks, which represents how they do not get to have a taste of freedom before democracy took over everything that they worked so hard for. As the rebel soldiers walk through the door, the camera angle that is used is a close up, with this close up we can see the utter distaste for Aung-San than the soldier has as he shoots him at point-blank, as he think that what he is doing is for the greater good of the country. A close up of Aung-San’s face shows how calm he is through this whole process, at not one point does he seems scared, he knew what he was risking for his country, and he knew that it was all worth it, but you can see the sadness in his eyes once he realises what is coming, as everything that he has worked so hard for is going to be destroyed in a matter of seconds, which is why this part of the scene is shown in slow motion, to emphasise how quickly something taken so long to build, can be destroyed in a matter of seconds. This is another prime example of the cinema du look, where Luc Besson requires the audience to concentrate and tell what is happening by the visual story, by having a close up of the soldiers face, we can tell why he is doing this, by the hatred that we see in his eyes, its obvious that what he thinks he is doing is what is best for his country, by ridding Burma of General Aung San.

Luc Besson’s auteur style is projected through the main rebel soldier who is extreme in his actions, to bring greater clarity to the environment, his actions are extreme once he shoots Aung San fatally in the head, he then proceeds to shoot him 5 more times once he is lying on the ground, which just shows how ruthless he is. The fact that there is 3 armed soldiers against 7 unarmed peaceful politics, shows how extreme U-Saw’s people are being, and they are all gunned down very quickly, compared to how the democracy they worked so hard for is destroyed so quickly. There is an over the shoulder shot of the soldiers shooting the party members, and we can see the violence that is happening, and it feels as though we are there with them, this is foreshadowing what is going to happen in the future, lots of people dying for “the good” of their country. There is an image of when the soldier is standing in front of the ancient Burmese spears, and its a contrast to the start of the scene where Aung San was standing there, where it looked like he was wearing a crown, but now it is Yan Gyi Aung who is wearing the “crown” and he is the one in power. A bird’s-eye view camera shot of everyone lying dead on the floor, which is symbolises the blood shed for communism, and the sacrifice that they made for their country, another example of Luc Besson’s auteur style in this scene is the viewer is often led below the surface of society to see a more distasteful reality. This is relevant in this scene to the audience because we, as a society are not exposed to this part of the world, and this is what Luc Besson is trying to expose to us through his film.

The second scene that I will be analysing is when Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San is carrying on her father’s legacy, she is confronted by the military at a NLFD (National League for Democracy) rally, the scene takes place in Burma, on a remote street of Rangoon. In this scene, Aung San Suu Kyi is gathering support from the citizens of Burma on the streets when she is confronted by the military ruled by General Ne Win, and they threaten her with guns.

At the start of the scene we are presented with a wide mid-shot of a banner that says, “National League for Democracy,” which tells the audience what this scene is going to be about, and in the background we see a group of civilians helping set up, which shows the array of people who are helping her, and the number of supporters that she has. These civilians are a contrast to the military opposition, the colours that they wear are a lot lighter compared to the military dark green, the civilians wear light colours. The close up of the painted picture of Aung San Suu Kyi further proves how she has become a beacon of hope for Burma, just like her father was, she is following in his footsteps. A visual technique used in this scene is when Aung San Suu Kyi is walking through the military where they are all pointing guns at her, she walks through them calmly through them all, and the flowers in her hair further emphasise her image that she is portraying, it makes her look like some type of princess, a position of power. This scene is compared to when General Aung San was assassinated, when they close up on his face in a moment where most people would be freaking out, this just shows the parallels between father and daughter. This scene also highlights the cinema du look shown so often through this movie, as we can tell by the look on her face what is happening in the story, and another of Luc Besson’s auteur styles, showing conflict between principal character and the world that they live in is pointed out through this part of the scene. This scene proves that she will do whatever it takes for her country, even risking her own life, even when the lead commander threatens to shoot her, she keeps walking. We as an audience empathise with Aung San Suu Kyi. She is fighting for what she believes in, which is what Luc Besson is trying to convey through his auteur style. Therefore as a audience in this scene the viewers can relate to their own lives, where they feel as though they need to fight for something that they believe in, even if you encounter difficulties.

The way that she approaches the conflict with the military is entirely different, as soon as they arrive at the scene, they respond with violence, even though the democratic party have done nothing to threaten them, and then the way that they respond is quite different, they don’t threaten them with violence, but they proceed to remain calm. This highlights that principal characters are presented as extreme because they want to bring “greater clarity to their environment”. Even though the commander threatened to shoot Aung San Suu Kyi, when he was pointing the gun at her face, his hand was shaking, this proves that he may not have believe in General Ne Win’s intentions to kill her, as he ends up ordering his men to put the guns down and leave the sight. This shows how Suu Kyi is taking further steps for democracy than her father did, and risking her life in the process. Through the cinema du look used often during this scene, the audience can form their own opinions about what is happening, and can go into as much depth as they would like.

Over these two scenes we learn a lot about the primary characters of the movie, we see the distinct parallels between the father and daughter, both fighting for their country, and they reflect a distinct contrast between authorities in the country. General Aung San and Aung San Suu Kyi both represent the contrast between dysfunctional leadership in their country, with the democratic leaders being the dysfunctional leaders of the country. This is also shown through the cinema du look, which is used quite often to show what the characters are thinking without using dialogue, in this way we can understand the characters better.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Gus, you have responded to the film techniques with commentary on the auteur’s purpose. At times,your explanation of what the viewer learns from the auteur’s selections are a little under-developed. Look at the final lines of each paragraph and assume that the marker has not seen the film. Ask yourself: “Do I need to explain the effect of the film technique in clearer details?” “Do I fully explain the effect of this/these film techniques on the viewer?”
    Lastly, there are a number of places where you need to add full-stop breaks for greater sense. Today in class, you should read through this writing out loud to find where these breaks should be.

  2. Gus, I am pleased that you have structured your response around how the scenes show Luc Besson’s style. You have one lesson today to:
    – Strengthen the technical accuracy (spelling, punctuation)
    – State what the director’s overall purpose of the combination of film techniques and his auteur style was in these scenes- what message/idea was he trying to convey?


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