Scene 1: First Impressions

What is he doing when he’s first introduced?

He is questioning a couple of men (most likely spies for him) about how long Aung San Suu Kyi will be staying in Burma.

What do you see? (Visual Techniques)

At the beginning of the scene, we catch a glimpse of armed soldiers with red scarves around their necks: men who will kill on sight for the supposed betterment of their country. There is almost no eye contact in this scene, making it appear sort of shady. The General is dressed in military uniform with lots of gold detailing and medals on his chest, symbolising his high rank in the military. In contrast to this, the clothing of the men he speaks to is simplistic and average. He touches his face a lot, as if he doesn’t know what to do, and is generally quite fidgety – especially when compared to confident leaders who use large gestures to command attention. Despite this, he carries a large authoritative presence, as evidenced by the behaviour of the men he speaks to: very quiet, not much in the way of replies, subservient body language. A majority of the General’s actions appear to be private and/or secret, which begs the question of how trustworthy the General is.

What do you hear? (Verbal Techniques)

Dialogue is vague, reflecting what little they know about the situation. The words and the tone are clipped, militaristic, and brief, reflecting their need to keep the conversation secret and quiet. They are obviously talking about Aung San Suu Kyi, but neither of them ever name her and give her the power of being named.

What is the environment like? (Setting)

Clean, minimalistic, elegant. Pristine and wealthy. Government building in the middle of Rangoon (the capital). Well guarded area.

 

Scene 2: Visiting a Tarot Card Reader

What is General Ne Win doing in this scene?

He is talking to a tarot card reader about how to get rid of the ‘spirit’ that haunts him (the spirit being Aung San Suu Kyi and her father).

Describe the environment Ne Win is in. (Setting)

Poverty struck, dirty. A shady back street of Rangoon, in a seedy building. The room with the tarot card reader doesn’t have a door but a barrier that looks like a cage. Obviously a poorer area of town, so the General sticks out with his white military uniform and badges.

What is the tarot card reader like? What is she doing?

She is very purposefully placing tarot cards on the table. Her tattooed face and hands and the neon blue background give her an eerie feel. Her hands are dirty (perhaps a reflection on the dirty work she does). She takes his power away from him; while he is usually the most powerful man in a room, when he’s with her he has no power.

What do you see? (Visual Techniques)

A few medium shots (which shows body language as well as the face so we can understand the character’s emotions). Set design, costume, lighting, camera shots, colour. Close ups show important details.

What do you hear? (Verbal Techniques)

Non-diegetic sounds, one of which imitates a wolf’s howl, are used to further emphasise the eerie feel of the scene.

 

Consider how many of the details you have listed reflect Luc Besson’s auteur style. List the connections.

The viewer is led below the surface of society to see a more distasteful reality

  • General Ne Win has civilian informants watching all aspects of society; they wear plain clothes and inform him that Aung San Suu Kyi has entered Burma
  • When he goes to visit the tarot card reader, his flashy car is in direct contrast with the dirty, rundown back streets of Rangoon

Authorities are often dysfunctional and ineffective

  • The General is portrayed as nervous and fidgety; he continually touches his cheek and chin and doesn’t make eye contact with his informant
  • The tarot card reader orders General Ne Win to take off his shoes; he ( the leader of a country)

Questions a society’s morality

  • Luc Besson here presents the corruption in the Burmese government under the leadership of General Ne Win from 1962 onwards
  • Besson presents how Burma deteriorated financially and morally under General Ne Win, through his dysfunctional and illogical decision-making
  • Besson presents how this military dictator was self-serving instead of people-focused
  • These scenes also contrast directly with Aung San Suu Kyi’s upright and strong moral character: her family and people come first

Cinema du look

The visual elements of this scene are able to tell the story:

  • Lighting in the building is minimal: mystery, uncertainty, hidden acts take place there. Blue lighting behind the woman creates an illuminating almost supernatural effects around her. The red light behind the General reflects his communist beliefs (sacrifice/blood of the people)
  • Costume: General Ne Win’s military decorations
  • The setting shows tarot cards on a small table. The woman and General Ne Win faces the cards for her wisdom/direction
  • Props: General Ne Win places a Burmese note on the table

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