General Aung San’s Assassination
The first scene I will be analyzing from the film “The Lady” directed by Luc Besson is set in Rangoon, Burma on the 19th of July 1947. In this scene, General Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi’s father is assassinated by military rebels under General U Saw’s order. General Aung San was chosen by the British military to lead Burma through independence but was fiercely opposed by the Myochit (Patriot) Party which was formed by General U Saw in 1938. General U Saw was responsible for conspiring to assassinate General Aung San and his cabinet members and military rebels in his party were ordered to shoot them at close range in the Secretariat Building, Rangoon, Burma. General U Saw was later executed for his crime on the 8th of May 1948.
Luc Besson, the director of “The Lady” uses a large number of significant visual techniques within the film to support his auteur style and also to enhance the cinema du look that is largely present throughout many scenes. His auteur style is considered to be when “the director is the author of the movie than the writer of the screenplay.” The cinema du look is considered to be when the director favours “style over substance.” An important symbol and prop within the film is the red scarf of communism, which symbolises the opposing military rebel force against General Aung San and his party: The Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL). The very first time the audience views the presence of the red scarf prop, is during a mid shot of a military rebel soldier tying the triangular red scarf around his neck as he progresses towards General Aung San’s council chamber in the Secretariat Building. The red scarf is also shown in a three shot when the three rebel soldiers are forming together before they approach the soldier standing guard in front of the council chamber door. This symbolises the existence of communism within the government of Burma and the extreme measures to which General U Saw was willing to go to, in order to retain communism within Burma. The colour red is used to represent the blood of the people for the good of the people within a communist state. This is also present in the scene of General Aun San’s assassination with a bird’s eye view shot of the the council chamber once the General Aun Sang and his party members have been killed. The shot provides a very graphic image of blood splattered all over the walls and pooling on the ground. This shot symbolises that the military rebels are willing to do anything ‘for the good of the people’ and in their opinion it was necessary to shed the blood of democracy in order to keep the military in charge of Burma and ‘protect the people’.
Luc Besson also uses lighting and costuming within his auteur style to highlight important parts within the scene and to signify ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This supports the cinema du look as it is a visual film technique and doesn’t require any verbal techniques to interpret the scene to the audience. Lighting is used in the council chamber room when General Aung San is holding a meeting with his party members and also in the hallways of the Secretariat building before General Aung San is assassinated. The room within which General Aung San is discussing the progression of democracy, is bathed in warm, yellow/white light which symbolises that democracy is to be the guiding light of Burma and it’s citizens. It also represents that democracy is cutting through the communist ways of Burma’s past and the ‘dictatorship’ that the country was suppressed by; just like light cuts through darkness. The clothing in which General Aung San and his party members are dressed in, are clean and pressed as if they have just been washed. The clothing is coloured in soft whites, yellows and oranges apart from General Aung San’s uniform which signifies his rank and involvement in the military. However in the hallways where the rebel soldiers are joining to assassinate the General, the light is very dim and gives the essence of the environment being ‘dirty’ compared to the council chamber where everything is very clean and crisp. The darkness outside of the council chamber represents the presence of retaliating communist and military supporters within Burma and is given face by the three rebel soldiers ordered to assassinate General Aung San. The clothing worn by the rebel soldiers is very dirty and dark green, the individuals themselves are also obviously sweaty which gives an air of disarray, similar to the type of government they are supporting.
In the scene, Luc Besson portrays his auteur style through two significant close up shots which also reinforces the film style of the cinema du look as these close up shots do not include many verbal or sound techniques. The first significant close up shot is of Yan Gyi Aung’s face, the General’s assassin, before he starts to fire his Sten gun. The close up shot illustrates the utter hatred this young man has for General Aung San and the democratic party he is leading in an attempt to save Burma and its citizens from a powerful and threatening government and military leader. Luc Besson’s auteur style is shown through Yan Gyi Aung as he is depicted to the audience as a ruthless, authoritative individual who is very invested in doing what they believe is the ‘best for the people’. Cinema du look is used in this part of the scene as during the close up shot on Yan Gyi Aung’s face, as there is no sound or verbal techniques used. The director relies entirely upon the audience’s attention to notice the significance of the shot and the meaning behind it which is the aim of the cinema du look; to portray a scene through visual techniques rather than verbal techniques. Another significant close up shot within this assassination scene is of Yan Ghi Aung’s hand as he holds the Sten gun out towards General Aung San’s body as he lies, shot, on the ground. The shot captures the assassin repeatedly shooting General Aung San another five times after the initial, fatal shot to the head. This shot shows the lengths to which General U Saw and the rebel soldiers were willing to go to in order to maintain the power over Burma and do the ‘best for the people’. This close up shot is evidence of the rebel soldiers shedding blood for the good of the people in a typical communist way and is supported by the bird’s eye shot of General Aung San’s blood pooling on the floor. This is symbolic as it is a literal blood shed which matches the red scarves that the rebels are wearing which are the symbol of communism. Cinema du look techniques are used again in the close up shot on the gun as the only verbal technique the audience can hear is the gun shots piercing through the silence after the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) party is killed.
The second scene I will be analyzing from the film “The Lady” is set in the back streets of Rangoon, Burma. In this scene, Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of General Aung San, is threatened by the military under the command of General Ne Win during a rally in the city of Rangoon. Aung San Suu Kyi is gathering support from the citizens of Burma and during the scene, is in the midst of meeting people who were supporters of the National League for Democracy (NLFD) and had gathered to hear her speak about creating a democratic government for their country. Aung San Suu Kyi was chosen by the people of Burma and the students of Rangoon University, to create and head a party for democracy after the resignation of General Ne Win and the announcement of the first country wide vote for government leaders in Burma for decades. During Aung San Suu Kyi’s fight for Burma’s independence, not only her life but the lives of many of her followers were threatened but her 28 years of hard work paid off in 2015 when her party finally assumed the majority of party seats within the government and they could at last make larger steps towards submerging Burma into a democratic environment.
Some significant visual techniques used in this scene by Luc Besson, included: a close up shot of Aung San Suu Kyi’s face as she approaches the line of armed soldiers, a close up shot of Aung San’s face as she is targeted by the General in charge with a hand gun and lastly, a flash back of General Aung San’s assassination is used. All three of these visual techniques support Luc Besson’s auteur style as Aung San shows sincerity and honesty in comparison to the extremities of the military’s rule within Burma and the drastic actions carried out by the rebel soldiers. The director’s auteur style is again shown through the theme of the scene as there is unbelievable conflict between Aung San and the country within which she lives and the rule it is suppressed beneath. During the first close up shot of Aung San’s face, she is approaching the line of soldiers under General Ne Win’s command who are all armed with automatic rifles ready to shot upon a simple call from the General in charge. The close up shot reveals to the audience that although Aung San is very nervous and clearly fears for her life, she remains calm and collected. Although she believes she is facing certain death – in the same way to her father, fighting a common cause – she remains strong and polite and slowly advances towards the soldiers threatening her existence. This shot shows that Aung San is truly prepared to do whatever it may take to secure democracy for the country of Burma and the people she cares about who live within it. The director uses the cinema du look during this shot to cause the audience to analysis the body language and expressions on Aung San’s face. This allows the audience to become invested in her reactions and form opinions on what is happening within the shot.
The second close up shot of Aung San is when she has passed through the line of soldiers and is standing directly in front of the General in charge with a hand gun aimed towards her head. The close up shot captures her closing her eyes as she prepares herself for the shot that will no doubt end her life and possibly the fight for democracy. The shot again shows the extent to which Aung San was willing to go to protect her supporters and to reason with the military in a calm and composed manner. The manner with which she approaches the military is a very clear contrast to the way the military approached Aung San which shows that the military believe she is a significant threat to them and the present government within Burma. Another significant visual technique used within this scene precedes the close up shot of Aung San. It is a visual flash back of her father, General Aung San and a close up shot of his face seconds before he was assassinated. Ironically both Aung San and her father are in the same position fighting to protect Burma’s innocent and helpless people. However the flash back ends with one of the only verbal techniques within this part of the scene; the shouted command of another General: “Stop! Let them go! We are pulling out!” This part of the scene is evidence to support the cinema du look, as it uses very little dialogue and relies upon visual techniques to portray to the audience the parallels between Aung San’s and her father’s role within Burma and how Aung San is taking larger steps towards democracy than her father ever managed.
Within this scene, Luc Besson only uses a small amount of dialogue, which reinforces the cinema du look of the film as this scene contains mainly visual techniques rather than verbal techniques. The General in charge of the rally confrontation, shouts orders in a threatening and loud tone of voice in order to attract attention and assume control over the entire situation. For example, the General shouts orders such as: “No public meetings allowed! Go back home!”, “Turn back that’s an order!” and “Stop right there or we will shoot!”. These forceful and blunt commands are used in an effort to overthrow Aung San and the NLFD and symbolise a communist government and the rule of a dictator present within Burma. The military rebels are willing to go to extreme lengths in order to extinguish the rise of a democratic government within Burma and believe that removing Aung San will ensure the survival of a military led government. This scene portrays Luc Besson’s auteur style as Aung San is a direct contrast to the military as she is very calm, controlled and willing to make reasonable decisions whereas the military are brash, dysfunctional and willing to kill to remain in power. As a result Aung San shows honor and morality in contrast to the military. Democracy is run using the opinions and decisions of the people within the country and is controlled by a group of individuals selected by the people, whereas a dictatorship and communist government are based around actions, ‘for the good of the people’, but all decisions are made by one individual in charge and the citizens of the country are not allowed to have their own say in how their country is run. Aung San is clearly a representative of democracy within the scene due to her measured approach and the dialogue: “No, just ignore them. We will continue in a calm and orderly fashion.” However the military is a direct contradiction of Aung San and they show this by using force to seize control over the rally and attempt to ‘remove’ the threat to their rule, Aung San Suu Kyi. This scene creates tension and anticipation within the audience as they fear for the life of Aung San and the people supporting her. As this scene is similar to that of her father’s assassination – helped by the inclusion of a flash back to his death – the audience tends to believe this may be the end of her life and the construction of democracy within Burma. The small use of dialogue attracts the audience’s attention as they are required to watch the scene intently, in order to understand what is taking place and as a result, they become very invested in the apprehension of what is to come next. This is a classic cinema du look technique as the director has used visual techniques to show the story of the scene rather than explain with verbal techniques. This also allows the audience to form their own opinions on what they believe the scene means opposed to being told.
Lighting is used in this second scene to highlight the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. Lighting is a visual technique and this supports Luc Besson’s auteur style as settings in his films are often unpredictable and dark, so when lighting is present it often has a significant meaning. For example in this scene, the back street where Aung San is meeting her supporters who have gathered to view her rally, is bathed in dark light and gives the appearance of being dirty and poor. However, when Aung San walks through, she is bathed in warm yellow sunlight that illuminates the path behind her as she walks on. This symbolises that the path she has not yet walked and the people she has not met, are still under the impression that their way of life is trapped in time and that the only option for them is to remain suppressed under the communist government. On the other hand, the people she has talked to and touched behind her, are all bathed in the light of hope; the hope of democracy becoming the sole form of government in Burma, all led by their savior, Aung San Suu Kyi with the help of her father’s spirit. This use of lighting is shown through a long shot of Aung San walking under a covered street or walkway followed by her supporters and the NLFD including individuals from Rangoon University. The long shot captures the contrast of darkness and light in different areas both separated by Aung San herself. This part of the scene is also evidence of the presence of the cinema du look used by the director, Luc Besson. This is because the techniques are essentially all visual techniques compared to verbal techniques which allows for the audience to concentrate on the visual of the scene and uncover the meaning of it for themselves rather than the dialogue of characters and the vision of the director being forced upon the viewer. The use of lighting in this scene causes the audience to feel anticipation and fear for Aung San’s safety as she is walking into the dark and uncertainty, however Aung San’s body language shows us that she is not afraid to walk into an unknown situation in an effort to help all the people she can possibly connect with. This gives the viewer a true sense of Aung San’s character and gives an honest face to what democracy should look like compared to the contrasting government of Burma during the scene. Supported by Luc Besson’s auteur style, Aung San is an outcast from the society she lives within and the government that controls that society. Despite being an outcast within society, Aung San, brings greater clarity to the people and the environment within Burma to oust the military government and introduce democracy to greater improve the lives of the citizens and the well being of the country.