General Aung San is Assassinated
The extreme nature of dictatorship in Burma is seen through Luc Besson’s political drama The Lady. Luc Besson uses Cinema du look along with other techniques to show the assassination of General Aung San and his cabinet members. In this scene, General Aung San along with his brother and six cabinet members are meeting at the parliament buildings in 1947 to bring Burma into independence after the British and Japanese war over the country. However military rebels do not want to see democracy come to their country, in-fact they would prefer that the country remains under military power. Aung Saw the previous leader of Burma ordered the attack on the general and his men. Aung San is shot at point-blank range with a hand gun, and his member and brother are killed with machine guns. The scene ends with members of Aung Sans military coming to tell his wife and family. The camera zooms onto Aung San Sui Kyi sleeping face as a child foreshadowing her story.
The director uses the use of colour to draw attention to the contrast between military and democracy in Burma, leading to the assassination of General Aung San. Use of colour is a recurring technique throughout this first scene. The first shot is a close up of Aung San walking into the council chambers, he is wearing a plain green military uniform with no other colour or emblems on it, representing them coming out of the dictatorship and into democracy. This can be seen as in the past the Burmese dictatorship wore the red scarf around their neck representing the blood of the people, and communism.This red can be seen throughout history in countries under dictatorships such as communist China and North Korea. General Aung San not wearing red represents how Burma is moving forward and leaving communism behind and looking to their independent future. The military green and communist red can be seen in contrast throughout this scene. As a dark sounding western music begins creating tension for the viewer, a medium shot shows the men on ‘guard’ who were believed to be working for the General walking in a three shot putting on the red scarf showing they are military rebels. In a medium shot, General Aung San and his men of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) are toasting to a new future as they raise the red cups up to drink, the doors burst open as the military rebels come in., shown in an over the shoulder shot from the military’s perspective. The red of the cups the men were toasting with represent how they were close to democracy; they didn’t get to drink from the red cups representing how dictatorship and communism won out, they were close to toasting just like they were close to independence but just missed out.
The red scarf worn by the military rebels is a symbol for communism and is worn to represent the blood of the people for the good of all. The scarf is first seen as General U Saw men put it on to assassinate General Aung San in a medium shot, the scarf worn by U Saw’s men represent the need for military control in Burma and the lengths that dictators take to remain in power and have control. After General Aung San is assassinated at point-blank range shown in a close-up shot the red is lastly seen in a bird’s-eye view shot. The men are thrown across the room, their bodies in a map like formation, the room in covered in blood providing a huge contrast to the soft colors that the white room once was, the room once held hope and change. The bird’s-eye view of the blood splatters further indicates the extreme actions of dictatorship and the lengths that they will go to stay in power and not let democracy or freedom occur. The color used in this scene is a direct example of Luc Benson’s Auther Cinema du look style, he favored the visual techniques such as color to inform the viewer of the film and show them the contrast between military and democratic countries.
The use of characters is explored in this scene allows the viewer to discern how the protagonist General Aung San is in direct contrast to the dysfunctional military dictatorship of General U Saw in Burma. This scene in which General Aung San is assassinated the viewer can discern the integrity and goodness he holds, unlike the military rebels. After the rebels burst through the doors into the council chambers seen in a medium shot Aung San and his men are bathed in natural light coming from the windows while the assassinations are standing in the shadows. This lighting represents how Aung San is a symbol for love, hope and the future and the dictator and his men’s desire for power to use for evil. Without knowing much of the Burmese past the viewer can visually see the contrast between the two men and how this assassination will change the country, through Bessons du look style. The shadows over the military rebels are accompanied by a darker western music using a pan flute giving the atmosphere a sinister feel and builds anxiety in the viewer. The music when the rebels enter contrasts the softer more angelic music that plays while Aung San is walking the halls to the chamber shown in long and medium shots shows the contrast between the two sides and their wishes for dictatorship or democracy. By using lighting and sound the director is able to create a foreboding ambiance that carries on through out the film.
The viewer can gain a sense of the director’s cinema du look style by the use of body language and expression of the characters. The story told visually through characters expression further emphasizes the contrast between the two government ideals. Before General Aung San is assassinated the military rebels holds a hand gun to his head shown in a close-up shot. The Camera flips to Aung San staring straight into the barrel of the gun. In that moment he knows he is going to die but in a close-up shot, he remains calm and un-phased. He is not going to let dictatorship win by being scared or beg for his life as his beliefs are more important. Through the use of expression, we can see the integrity he has and the morals he holds. The body language of the general is kind and calm in the face of danger which is in direct contrast to the dysfunctional military this can be seen in the medium shot and close up shots of the military leaders. In a medium shot, the viewer can see that they have no problem with killing innocent men if it’s for their ‘great leader’, the viewer can discern the ease these men have in killing them through the facial expression and body language of the men. They are sneering at the men fighting for dictatorship, laughing at them and their regime with their eyes, they hold dark expressions of enjoyment in stopping the men from trying to grant them freedom. Their body language is strong and unphased as they hold the guns, they do not shake. From this scene, we can determine that the military dictatorship once again have no problem with using extreme methods of control. The contrast between communism and democracy can once again be seen as they have no problem sacrificing the blood of the people for the good of the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi is confronted by the military.
Aung San Suu Kyi is following in her father’s footsteps and is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLFD). Suu Kyi has organized a rally for the NLFD in Burma, like her father she is taking a stand against the military regime with a group of supporters and employees. At her rally, the military arrives with weaponry and causes chaos to stop them from promoting democracy. They tear down signs and flags and take people away, as Suu Kyi arrives soldiers tell her to go home when she doesn’t they line up ready to shoot. Paralleling her father she stares calmly down the barrel and walks towards them, continuing as the soldiers begin to count down, shaking he holds the gun to her head. She mirrors the same look as her father of integrity, morals, and values, the viewer can easily see the comparison between the father and daughter. Knowing that if she is killed she will become a martyr like her father, it would cause greater rebellion in Burma. Therefore they pull out and let her live and carry on.
Symbolism is used in this scene to inform the viewer about the change Burma is wanting to have and the control General Ni Wen still holds over the country. The opening shot of the scene is a low-angle shot looking up at the red NLFD banner. In Asian cultures, red is a symbol of prosperity and good luck. Suu Kyi used the red for her signs and banners is symbolizing their wish for prosperity in Burma and their wish to have peace. The colour of the flag reinforces Luc Besson’s style of cinema du look using the visual colour of the flag to inform the viewer of Burma’s want for peace and democracy. The red used in Suu Kyi campaigns such as the paintings of her and her father on a red background shown in a medium shot is symbolizing using the red of peace and prosperity to cut through the communist red that the military in Communist China, North Korea, and Burma made it stand for. Symbolism is also used to compare General Aung San with his daughter Aung San Sui Kyi and their shared beliefs for democracy. The body language, facial expressions and camera shots used in this scene as Suu Kyi stares into the handgun mirror the same techniques used in the assassination of her father. This idea of mirroring the two scene shows how their families beliefs for peace and democracy is a deep-rooted value. It also symbolizes the change in the Burmese military. When her father was assassinated the military rebels had no trouble killing him, however for his daughter shown in a series of medium and close up shots the man with the gun is counting down giving her time to leave and his hands are shaking in fear. The mirroring scenes symbolize the change in Burma and that even with in the dictatorship’s military, not all their men are okay with the actions of the regime and are living in fear for their lives.
The conflict between the protagonist Suu Kyi and the world in which she lives is extreme and out of the experience of most. This is demonstrated through the directors alter style, cinema du look, and other film techniques. The viewer can determine the extreme measures that the military takes to try to break Suu Kyi’s spirit and negatively impact her environment and supporters. Before Suu Kyi arrives at her rally the military come and try to stop it, breaking the spirit Suu Kyi has developed for democracy in Burma. In a long shot, the military vehicles come racing into the compound where they are holding the rally to stop it. A medium shot shows instructions being yelled at the men to pull down signs and banners shown in a series of medium shots. The intense music and fast paced movements of the camera show the anxiety and fear in the military and from General Ni Win that Suu Kyi could take away his power and bring democracy to the country. This use of the pan flute in the music emotively connects to the viewer building fear and anxiety for what will happen.
The props used show how Suu Kyi is living in an environment that we can not understand, the military’s guns and actions are extreme, rushed and severe to control just one woman. These military actions are in direct contrast to Suu Kyi who comes in shown in a medium shot in soft and peaceful lighting with nothing but flowers in her hair. Opposite her, in the shadows, the military lines up with many guns pointed at her head, these moments of conflict showing the contrast between the military and Suu Kyi are what engage us most within the film. The director uses these extreme contrast to show the paranoia that that General Ni Win lives in and the power that a peaceful campaign such as Suu Kyi’s can have over a nation who are living in fear and needs to see change and hope. A medium shot from her supporters perspective behind her shows her walking towards the line up of guns, this changes into a wide angle shot as she begins to walk through the first line of fire. As she walks towards the soldier pointing the handgun at her face the director uses a flashback to her father’s assassination to demonstrate how she is fighting his fight and is carrying on ensuring that the country will see change. The expression of integrity and bravery matches that of her father and explains the fear that the general has about her as he knows Generals Aung San’s daughter is the biggest threat to him and his regime since her father. The conflict with her experience is out of the experience of most, through visual film techniques accompanied with music in this scene the viewer gets a mild understanding of the extreme nature of dictatorship and the danger in which Suu Kyi is living.
Throughout ‘The Lady’ Luc Besson demonstrates creatively the alter style Cinema du look during both these scenes. His profound film ability is demonstrated in this film and shows the extreme nature of dictatorship in Burma in the past and in the world today. His work exploring an environment out of the experience of most along with the extreme contrast between views and ideas explored in this film informs the viewer about humanity and the need to have freedom in their own country. The lack of dialogue and the influence of telling the story visually along with music provokes emotion in the viewer and influences them to watch closer and gain a deeper understanding of the situation showing a more distasteful view of society and how people are living in blind faith believing what they are doing is for the best until Suu Kyi comes back giving the country hope again.