The mistress and harp of burma
In Japanese Literature, stories have often depicted what greatly influenced the prevalent period of common life and social sentiment. In the two books written by Japanese authors in two separate periods of Japan’s history, a transition is clearly seen through literature often expressed in superb storytelling.
In Ogai Mori’s “The Wild Geese”, human struggle is greatly influenced by tales of love in the midst of Japan’s industrialization boom. Writers depict and assimilate the concepts of free-thinking which brought romance and human emotion to the limelight. The familiarity of the reforms established during the period for which Ogai’s novel was actually written apparently brought forward the chance to openly discuss Japan’s so-called evil customs and traditions in a bid to strengthen the imperial rule.
Okada, as one of the main characters clearly narrated how he felt that a woman should be only a beautiful object, something loveable, a being who keeps her beauty and loneliness no matter what the situation she is in (Ogai, 20). In the same page, Okada added that this sentiment is brought about under the influence of habitual reading of old Chinese love stories. There is therefore a clear view in principle that establishes a need to disregard culture and ideas that wrongly adapted the old Oriental ways which often restricted free-thinkers to intellectually prosper.
In Toyoda’s movie, “The Mistress”, adapted from Mori Ogai’s The Wild Geese, oriental values was the main discussion with aims to expose the ancient cultural standards that stand in the way of personal freedom. In Otama we see the oppressed and marginalized people driven and deceived without any hope of being uplifted from the moral and restrictive bounds that society places upon them. The simplistic adventure of romance in a plot heightens into limelight the realities of life and the prevailing social views of the middle class which somehow voices out a need for reform in the Meiji Restoration period.
Several decades later after Japan was able to stand on its own two feet, Japan experienced a wartime defeat that brought home sad stories of soldiers taken as prisoners of war. Takayama’s “Harp of Burma” showed pacifism as the main aim of both novel and on film. “We have to be ready for hardship, for all we know, we may die here in Burma. If that time comes, let us die together…”, (Takeyama, 33).
Such poignant words relay veiled patriotism whose desire for peace in an armistice agreement with their British captors aims to relay the evils of war. Written during a period where wartime horrors still stayed afresh in the minds of the Japanese people, there was not an ounce of blame or an aim to proclaim the evils of their captors. Its sincere inward idea was just to dwell on the problems the war brought to everyone involved.
In retrospect, The Harp of Burma establishes a deeper humanistic connection to modern day events where peace is the common desire of mankind. The movie through cinematic effect exceeds sensory reflection that somehow created a link to present day situations around the world where wars and battles are fought. Although Ogai’s novel discussed social issues on a road to recovery, the pressing need for peace exceeds in meaning and connection through the Harp of Burma that was successfully portrayed in film. Seeing the ravages of war makes a good reflection how one favors such madness that resulted in tragedy and death.
As an anti-war film, it even exceeded the points portrayed in its novel where suffering is presented as a result of too much desire. As a challenge to survival, the movie “Fires on the Plain” declares a clearly made manifestation of human woes compared to the movie of the same title, “The Burmese Harp”. Both movies however adapted Takeyama’s novel The Harp of Burma that depicted a deep sense of longing for the fatherland while emphasizing compassion in the midst of survival and atrocities. As a human interest film, “Fires on the Plain” arouses a relative connection through artistic performance of reality in full color for young viewers to understand how wars wreak and break even the strongest heart.
Mori, Ogai trans. Ociai, Kingo and Goldstein, Sanford (1959). The Wild Geese. Boston:
Takeyama, Michio trans., Howard Hibbett ( 1966). Harp of Burma. Boston: Tuttle Publishing.