Film Essay using “Auteur Style” and numerous personal judgements about the film.

Scene Analysis 3.9:

The political drama The Lady, directed by Luc Besson depicts the extremities of the dictatorship that was ruling over Burma. It follows the story of Aung San Suu Kyi and how she struggles to bring in democracy into Burma. Besson uses film techniques and cinema du look while incorporating his auteur style to outline how the authorities in government are corrupted by power. One scene that represented this was when General Aung San was assassinated, Aung San Suu Kyi’s father. Another scene that portrayed this was when Aung San Suu Kyi was rallying with her group NLfD in the Rangoon market and she was confronted by the military.

General Aung San is assassinated

This scene was set in 1947 in Rangoon the capital of Burma. In this scene, we see General Aung San arriving in the parliament building and finally progressing to his assassination. Luc Besson used symbolism effectively through the use of visual and verbal techniques. Furthermore, he gives the scene a cinema du look sophistication with a hint of his auteur style throughout the scene.

We see a full shot of General Aung San greeting the guards, this indicates that he shows respect to the people that work with him. The lighting in the room is bright and emits a warm mood. We are then given a close-up of a side profile of a guard smoking, to indicate stress. The lighting in the room is dim and dark to signify the gloomy mood. He seems impatient as he looks around and then throws his cigarette on the ground, to represent that he is ready and will not wait any longer. Seeing the General’s scene compared to the soldier we clearly see a distinct contrast between the two men. General Aung San is presented in warm light as if he is radiating sunlight from within and whereas the soldier is surrounded by the dark giving him a sinister aura. When the soldier starts walking we hear a non-diegetic sound of shakers. The director’s purpose was to make the audience feel a sense of anticipation and uneasiness towards the guard. The music intensifies as he climbs the stairs and is greeted by another guard. They acknowledge one another with a simple slight nod. The director’s purpose was to show clarification that the action that they will be taking moments later is justified and clear with each other. Another man approaches from a dark corridor, this gives the scene an ominous mood. He joins the others and they march as they walk to make a three shot close-up to show a relationship with each other. This reflects Besson’s auteur style, where authorities are often mindless, young and believe that they are bringing greater clarity into the society they exist in by following orders. This scene also shows a theme where it questions society’s morality, one of the many themes Besson likes to explore.

The diegetic sound of their march is in unison with the non-diegetic shakers and whip-lash making rhythmic music. The tension builds and we feel the level of anticipation intensify as they seem to march faster. The scene highlights Besson’s preferred style of the cinema du look, with very little narrative or dialogue the story is still delivered in a sophisticated show and not tell way. He uses both visual and verbal techniques to emphasize the atmosphere of the scene. A great example of this was a close-up of General Aung San in the council chamber with six other colleagues and his brother, while he talks about democracy there is no other sound but his voice, his face and the others light up and they smile at each other.The lighting in the room is bright and the council members are all wearing bright varying outfits to display that although they are all very diverse people they are working towards one goal. The director wanted the viewers to detect and identify this without having to tell us, this technique gives the scene a more intimate interpretation for the audience. The scene cuts back to the soldiers and we are shown a guard in a mid-shot looking alarmed and fearful and he flees the scene and the three soldiers continue forward. The sound of shakers and whip-lash are heightened as they each put their stark red scarf reinforcing their so-called belief in their communistic government. Then a loud bang of the door opening breaks the intense music and is replaced by a pan flute. This was to represent the symbolism of the General’s spirit being released when the door was opened it was also Besson’s way of foreshadowing the General becoming a Martyr. Besson uses slow motion to emphasize the scene that was to unfold and it personifies the idea of how our lives flash before our eyes moments before our death. W see a close-up of the soldier shouting as he holds his gun up; however, we can only hear the distinct sound of the pan flute and all sound cease to play. This was to symbolize that the General’s spirit was stronger than anything in that room within that exact moment. We see a close-up of the General and a zoom shot as he closes his eyes. This indicates to the viewers that he is unafraid, this also suggests that perhaps he was expecting something like this to happen.

The director uses a viewer’s point of view shot of the council chamber with General Aung San standing in the middle of the room and the soldiers with their guns up. Besson’s purpose was to illustrate the idea of the how the government uses their power and authority to subdue others and oppress any power that may oppose them. A side view close-up of the gun is then shown, a loud diegetic bang is heard and the pan flute ceases. This was to epitomise the idea of General’s spirit leaving the living realm. This shows Besson’s auteur style of how a principle character appears to develop and grow as an individual within their deteriorating society. The General is seen standing his ground with a calm expression as a gun is raise and pointed at his head. This shows his strength and courage even when he is faced with adversity, instead of cowering to the soldiers he accepted the situation no matter how bad his fate was going to be. Before he closes his eyes we also notice that his face is surrounded by tribal spears fanned out and bright halo like light, framing his close-up. This was Besson’s creative way of signifying the concept of General Aung San being the voice of many, with differing people standing behind the man who wants to bring light into Burma, democracy. After he gets shot the camera move to show a side view mid-shot of machine guns lined up pointing aimed towards the room full of the council members. The soldiers fire a myriad of bullets and the diegetic sound of the machine gun fills the room and bounces off the walls. The shooting subsides to a stop and we see a closeup of the main soldier’s feet as he steps forward and shoots the dead body of the general two times. The camera angle then deviates towards the soldiers with his gun pointing toward the camera from a high angle which makes him appear big and intimidating and shoots three more times. In total, he shot General Aung San six times this was Besson’s way of highlighting that the authorities are mindless, evil and have no conscience towards the action they take. The five other shots he took were unnecessary this, however, was Luc Besson’s custom to accentuates the government’s greed for supremacy that they are willing to go great lengths to exemplify just how powerful they are.

Aung San Suu Kyi is confronted by the military at an NLFD rally.

This scene was set at a market in Rangoon the capital of Burma. In this scene, we see Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues from the National League for Democracy are confronted by the military. Luc Besson used symbolism effectively through the use of visual and verbal techniques. Furthermore, he gives the scene a cinema du look sophistication with a hint of his auteur style throughout the scene.

The scene opens with Aung San Suu Kyi’s painted portraits and the NLFD flag posted on the wall. In the portrait, banner, and flag, we see that the background is painted red. Red is commonly used to symbolize communism, however, man Asian flags utilize the color red. The Philippine flag consist of the color red it embodies the people sacrifice and patriotism of the people who fought to liberate the country, not communism. This is Besson’s creative way of portraying the long and arduous journey that Suu Kyi will face in order to bring forth peace and democracy for the Burmese people. The who are setting up have cheerful expressions and seem to be happy. This was to show that they support Suu Kyi and her party and are willing to help gladly. Then we hear a loud diegetic sound of a jeep arriving, interrupting the light mood of the market and we sense an unfamiliarity towards the running engine in the middle of a market. The director’s purpose was to highlight the fact that these people were not welcomed. Soldiers get out of the car and start to order people to go home, they take down Suu Kyi’s portraits and flag. This indicates that the soldiers have no integrity nor sanction for patriotism for a cause that supports the people. This supports the theme of the military first, this is how most dictatorship countries work. They control the nation through the use of their military which in turn enforces fear in the people. The dialogue spoken by the soldier is not translated into English like they usually are in the film, this implies that Besson wanted the audience to be in a state of confusion just like the people are in the market.

A close up of the main commanding officer standing in the side line is seen with aviators on and he seems to be disinterested with the task as he looks around. His face is shaded and the lighting is dim in comparison with the with the lighting that was used during the rally preparation which is bright and luminous. This is Luc Besson’s way of highlighting the contrast between the people and the government, this is one of his distinct style of portraying certain settings to deliver key themes. He often uses settings that are dark in order to convey the idea that the conventional view of what is right and wrong is often challenged. Although a market is often not a dark and shady place, by using certain angles and lighting of Besson somehow deliver the motif of good and bad through the setting and portrayal of the people in these sets. The scene then suddenly cut to Aung San Suu Kyi walking while greeting many people line up an alley to waiting to meet her and listen to her at the rally. We hear a faint, distinct diegetic sound of clapping of the people as she walks on. It suddenly cuts to the soldiers shouting what we assume are commands for the people to leave. This whole sequence was the director’s way of presenting the audience some insight and idea of what might happen when two very diverse group intersect. Suu Kyi’s clothes matches the civilians this was to symbolize that she is the advocate for the people. The Guards are wearing their red scarf and with the commanding officer is wearing a red band around his arm this was to symbolize their authority to command. Earlier in the film we as an audience we see a soldier shoot a doctor in the hospital and claim “I’m wearing the red scarf, I have the right to shoot you.”

by Veron Pittaway, 2017

Posted by Jo Waide

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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