Following the second world war, after Japan invaded Burma, it was then soon gained back by Britain where General Aung San was selected by Britain to unite national groups and lead the country into independence. Aung San is known as the leading Architect of Independence, and the founder of the Union of Burma. Luc Besson, a talented film director, uses his unique style and various film techniques to not only tell but show the story of Burma and its journey to independence. Besson is known for his Cinéma du look, a technique where directors favor style over substance, in other words, create effect using visuals rather than narrative.
Six months prior to Burma’s planned independence, General Aung San and six of his colleagues were assassinated. In the film The Lady directed by Luc Besson, an early scene shows the gruesome detail of what is thought of his assassination using film techniques such as close-ups, over the shoulder and various sound techniques. Besson also cleverly uses costumes to contrast between the gang of paramilitaries and the council group.
In the film The Lady directed by Luc Besson, specifically the scene where General Aung San is assassinated, the scene opens with General Aung San arriving at the Secretariat Building in downtown Rangoon, the capital of Burma. As he arrives at the building the mood starts to transition from the calming non-diegetic music from the previous scene to a more cold and serious one. As the General opens the doors to the room where all his colleagues await, an over the shoulder shot of him is used which straight away shows his importance. Although Aung San is polite and greets his colleagues with enthusiasm and kindness, a slight non-diegetic dark hum begins. With the gloomy hum in the background and the tension building, a close-up shot of a soldier looking rather suspicious is then used. 3 soldiers, looking slightly grimmer than the ones shown outside the meeting room, begin to emerge and make their way down the hallway as shown by a 3 shot. This shows that they have gathered together for a reason and are evidently up to something. In the same 3 shot, the main soldier in the front is shown putting on a red scarf. This instantly shows a difference between these soldiers, and the ones we saw earlier. Red is commonly associated with communism, in places such as Japan and North Korea. It symbolizes the blood of the people, the ones who died in honor for their own people and country. The non-diegetic dark hum has turned into a drastic beat as the soldiers make their way up the hallway, in slow motion, the soldiers burst into the room where Aung San and his colleagues were meeting.
All 3 soldiers armed, the main soldier points his gun directly at General Aung San. With the use of another over the shoulder shot, we watch the soldier walk towards Aung San in slow motion. With the non-diegetic sound now changed from intense to soothing traditional, Aung San calmly faces him as the camera zooms into a close-up of his face. He shuts his eyes, then an over the shoulder shot shows the soldier’s gun to his head. This shows his integrity and strength, and that he is willing to die for his country without showing a glimpse of fear. As he is shot the movement changes from slow to rapid fire whilst the rest of the men in the room are gunned down. Close up and angle shots are used to show the soldiers shooting, this drastic an intense part of the scene shows just how different they are to Aung San and just how much his assassination was an act of desperation. The scene finished up with a bird’s-eye view of the room, where we can see all the dead bodies and blood on the floor. This is significant as it relates to Besson’s auteur style where he uses extreme visuals over the sound. The picture that he leaves is enough to make us realize how bad the situation was and somewhat uses it to traumatize the audience, this is significant because he is able to create such a mood without any sound at all.
In this scene, Besson has dressed the council group in clothes that are brightly colored, this not only shows their happiness and peace but it also emphasizes the contrast between them and the paramilitaries. Although there were other soldiers shown in the scene, these particular 3 were made to look somewhat nastier. Luc Besson’s Auteur style, in relation to this scene, he tends to show a contrast between the main character and the dysfunctional authorities. Overall the film is about the conflict that rose in Burma’s government, where General Nay Win was a communist and Aung San Suu Kyi was fighting for democracy. So naturally, Luc Besson started off the film distinguishing the difference between the authorities and did so by making such an obvious contrast between the 3 soldiers, and General Aung San. Luc Besson creates a “good guy” and a “bad guy” for the audience, as he generally likes the protagonists to be a direct contrast. This is a clever technique as he trying to tell a story, therefore he wants to make it clear who’s the good and the bad. Besson makes it so the audience doesn’t need to form their own opinion because he’s put it there right there in front of them.
Bringing democracy to Burma was no easy task for General Aung San’s daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi. In 1988 Returning home to Burma to care for her sick mother after living abroad, Aung San Suu Kyi decided to carry on her father’s legacy and become general secretary for the National League for Democracy. The journey leading Burma to independence, and battling with the Burmese military was tough for Suu Kyi. At one point, Suu Kyi traveled around Burma campaigning and getting to know the people, however in one of the towns the military attempted to stop her claiming that no public meetings were allowed. Another scene in the film The Lady directed by Luc Besson, shows Suu Kyi getting blocked by the Burmese military and how she handles the situation. Many aspects of this scene are very similar to the assassination scene, where Besson uses film techniques such as close-ups, over the shoulder and various sound techniques. He also again uses costumes to contrast between Suu Kyi and the Burmese soldiers.
The scene begins when Suu Kyi is shown by a long shot, walking down a line of people greeting them. She is dressed in a warm pink top, with a bright yellow lay around her neck. Most of the people around her are dressed in plain colours, which makes her stand out even more. Besson shows her importance, love, and kindness in very little time with such simple techniques. As Suu finishes greeting people, a mid shot of her is used just as she discovers the military men ahead of her. She stays calm and proceeds to walk ahead. An over the shoulder shot of her shows the military in the background pointing guns, and in that same shot, we can clearly see Suu’s colorful flowers in her hair. Besson cleverly used this shot to show the contrast between Suu and the military. Luc Besson’s wants us to feel a certain way about the characters, and in this part of the scene, he does it using their costumes. This relates back to his style of creating a contrast between the protagonists, he uses Suu’s costume to make her look nicer and more delightful. Obviously, this directly contrasts with the dark, grim-looking soldier costumes and makes the audience detest them.
As she walks towards the soldiers it flicks back and forwards from an over the shoulder shot and a close up of Suu’s face. Besson does this to show that Suu is strong, and shows no fear. There are 2 rows of soldiers, one in the back, one in the front, with the soldier who appears to be in charge in the middle. This formation is shown by a long-shot and shows exactly what Suu would’ve been up against. In slow motion, again, Suu continues walking through the line of soldiers. A mid shot/wide-angle lens is used as Suu through the soldiers as their guns are pointed, which shows her bravery and also what she’s thinking. She doesn’t think these soldiers are a big threat and shows just how much more power has than them, by walking right through a line of armed soldiers. There are many significant things about the structure of this, it was almost a complete mimic of the first scene, where slow motion, calming non-diegetic sound, close up and costume contrast is used as she gets closer to the soldiers. A significant aspect of this scene is the contrast in the way Suu Kyu leads and the Burmese military. The military tries to control Suu Kyi with fear, but she still walks right through them despite a number of guns pointing her. Luc Besson uses this technique to not only make Suu Kyi look strong and powerful, but it also makes the Burmese military look weak and dysfunctional which is on of the main messages Besson wants to convey through the film.
As Suu get’s through the first row, she meets the middle soldier who points his gun at her. Just as the first scene, there is a close up of her face as she closes her eyes. It shows a flashback to the shot of her father closing his eyes, showing just how similar the two are. The scene then snaps out of the slow motion. The only difference from the assassination scene being the soldiers pulled out, rather than shooting her. Luc Besson’s Auteur style is shown as you can really see just how dysfunctional the Burmese military is. The number of soldiers they had to use just to control one lady shows how little authority they actually have and how much of a threat Suu Kyi is to them. Even with the amount of soldiers they had they were unable to control the situation as Suu Kyi basically ignored their every command. Another thing Besson often does is show authorities as young, ignorant and as if they think they’re powerful and important. The soldier in charge of the group was shown at the very beginning with a close-up, looking confident, important, and of course, young. This is the same soldier who ordered the soldiers to pull away when threatening Suu Kyi.
With Luc Besson’s Cinema Du talent and his unique auteur style, he created a realistic film on the true events that happened in Burma 40 years ago. He uses special techniques to tell the story with less dialogue than your usual film. This gives the viewers more than just the story, but an intel of what it felt like to be apart of the conflict between the Burmese military and the National League for Democracy. Throughout the film, we learn about the lives of the main characters. We are painted a clear picture of Aung San Suu Kyi bravery and power whilst learning just how dysfunctional General Ne Win’s leadership was. Both the two scenes analyzed were interesting similar, using almost identical techniques whilst conveying similar messages.