Top critical review
Beautifully shot, but lacking punch
on 29 August 2016
As there seemed to be a lot of glowing praise for this film, I had high hopes for a great viewing experience. But it didn't turn out like that. The story in itself is quite interesting: a young Japanese soldier with a talent for music finds himself and his company stuck in Burma at the end of the war and gets separated from them which leads to some serious soul searching, seeing death and destruction everywhere he looks.
His comrades surrender to the British and will be held prisoner until, at last, they are free to return to Japan, still hoping to take their missing comrade with them. But it isn't to be.
While undoubtedly very sincere in its anti-war message I found the way it's being put across quite melodramatic and sometimes even ridiculous, as in the way some parrots are used to establish a connection between the group and its lost member. Although the film is about war and contains battlefield scenes, these are scenes of a violent past event. All living persons portayed, whether Japanese, British or Burmese, are all quite nice to each other. And while the use of music (in particular that of the harp) could have provided a strong antidote to all violence, here the sight of the jolly Japanese brigade singing lustily at several occasions and indeed the choice of music simply doesn't work. I found it all rather contrived and even a bit twee.
Does this film have its strong points? Absolutely. The cast is fine and the choice of scenery is great. Desolation, destruction and despair are well portrayed in the scenes where the main character wanders on his own, trying to find some sense in what he's seeing and these are, I think, the best scenes.
Nevertheless, this film does not deliver the punch it should considering its choice of story and message. Perhaps a more gritty, realistic or grim film wasn't really an option at the time, but the film left me with a real sense of disappointment.