The first scene of the film the Lady, directed by Luc Besson is set in 1947 Burma, it’s the assassination of General Aung San and 6 other cabinet members, including the generals brother in the parliament building where they were discussing Burma’s future and democracy. On 1947 April 9th, Burma was holding its first general election since it had separated from India, these general elections were an agreement between the British prime minister and general Aung San which would make Burma independent within a year. However only 3 months after these elections in which Aung San won 173 seats, he was assassinated on July 19th by 3 men under the orders of the Prime Minister U Saw; U Saw was tried and hanged for his crimes on May 8th, 1948. Aung San is the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, the current leader of the National League of democracy and the woman who this film is about. Luc Besson’s auteur style is one where he focuses a lot on the visuals of the film and uses them well to help tell the story. This style that he uses is called the cinema du look and focuses on allowing what we see to help tell the story, he does this using colour, costume, lighting, camera shots and more techniques which help create his style.
The scene begins with an overhead shot of Aung San driving into the heavily guarded parliament building, outside of which there’s a large state seal of Burma on the wall at the entrance, there’s also the Burmese flag during British rule hanging in the background, this overhead shot establishes the scene. The Burmese flag at this time was blue with a union jack in the corner and a peacock which shows the two countries working together for Burma’s future. Aung San had just come back from Britain, agreeing upon Burma’s independence and how they should proceed into the future. This flag in the background shows what Aung San was working towards and what he died for. This flag is also seen in mid shots in the room where they’re shot on either side of the door behind Aung San when he enters and the assassins as they enter and shoot him. On the wall in the background is a metal peacock decoration, peacocks are Burma’s national bird and are often used as a sign of resistance and pride. This peacock decoration and the state seal of Burma shows that Aung San is working for his country and the people in it and ultimately giving his life for it. The place that he’s in having so many symbols of Burma show his connection and relation to the country. Ancient Burmese spears are in the centre of the room and seen in multiple shots, these are symbolic of Aung San bringing the old Burma with him into this new independence. Incense is burning in the room showing their Buddhist religion and them including it in their plans for the future. In a mid shot showing everyone, the men are seen toasting with red cups to their country’s future, yet they never get to drink it, like they never get to instate the democracy. Luc Besson uses these props to show certain things about Aung San, his country, his relationship with it and how he plans to run it. Luc Besson’s style is seen showing how important freedom is, that men like these have died for the freedom that we have it’s important not to take it for granted. The love that Aung San had for his country and what he was willing to give for its freedom is shown in this scene. It makes us as the audience realise that the freedom we have today is taken for granted, it shows that people not dissimilar to Aung San have given their lives for our freedom and makes the viewer feel grateful for their sacrifice and pride to live in the country they died for, which is shown by Luc Besson through props such as the flags and peacocks.
Because Luc Besson’s style is the cinema du look in which a lot of attention is paid to the visuals, including colour which is used in this film to mean different things. The guard posts that are shown in an overhead shot outside the parliament building have a red star above them. The star was used as a sign of resistance during the war, showing Burma rising as independent, and the red in Burmese culture represents courage, unity and perseverance, it’s also the colour of the national league for democracy flag. Red is used in many Asian countries flags because of what it represents. The colour red, however, is also used later in this scene in a mid shot of the three assassins when they’re walking down the hallway towards Aung San and they put on their red scarves. This prop of the red scarf is symbolic of communism within the Burmese government and these men wearing the scarves are about to shoot an innocent man for their political beliefs showing the extent to how violent their communist system is. The colour of red in communism is used to represent the blood of the people for the people who gave themselves to the cause. When the red is seen, we as the viewers feel a sense of foreboding as in our minds it is linked with the communist antagonists in this film. The men wearing the red scarves also wear different hats, two are wearing slouch hats and the other is wearing a beret. This shows that they have managed to infiltrate different ranks within the government. The red blood spatters the room, contrasting against the light colour of the walls, table-cloth and their clothes. This really shows the ‘blood of the people’ literally, and how far these people are willing to go for their cause. This helps show Luc Besson’s auteur style by portraying these people wearing the red as cruel and ready to do anything for their cause despite any consequences they would have to face. The auteur’s style is also seen when Aung San is portrayed as opposed to the assassins which can be seen by parallel shots in this scene such as their entrances into the room; both Aung San and the men burst through the doors similarly but the way they greet the people inside is different. Aung San tells them “Good morning” and takes off his hat as a sign of respect when the other three men enter they’re shouting aggressively and pointing weapons. Another way the differences are shown is when they’re walking down the hallway, a bright almost angelic light shined upon Aung San as he makes his way to the room, yet when the three assassins are walking the corridor is dimly lit. These parallel shots between the characters are used by Luc Besson to help show the contrast between the protagonist Aung San and antagonists the assassins. It manipulates us, the viewer to become drawn towards Aung San and his party, wanting him to win the election. This admiration of Aung San, we feel later in the film towards his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi.
The second scene is set in a rally in Rangoon, Burma for the National League for Democracy party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, Aung Sans daughter and current state councillor of Myanmar. She had just come back from visiting all the small villages in Burma and was setting up for a rally. This was after General Ne Win had announced his resignation and elections, Aung San Suu Kyi had returned from Oxford, England where she had been living with her husband and two children to see her sick mother but ended up running to lead a democratic party. While rallying soldiers try to shut it down and threaten to shoot Aung San Suu Kyi.
In this scene, an important feature is the music that’s playing, it starts off with drums beating almost forebodingly setting up the scene for what is about to come. The soldiers then arrive pulling up in their cars, a low ominous music plays, while they are hassling the people at the rally soldiers shouting aggressively and non-distinctly can be heard over the low music playing showing how threatening they are to her and her party. During all this occasionally there’s a high-pitched eerie sound. It makes us feel a fear towards the soldiers and sets them up as the antagonists. Hearing this music when the communist soldiers appear displays them as the enemy in our minds. When Aung San Suu Kyi appears on-screen we hear a higher toned orchestral music which sounds almost heavenly, portraying her almost like a saviour and showing us her goodness. This contrast between the music when the soldiers and Aung San Suu Kyi are shown manipulates the viewer to want Aung San Suu Kyi to win the election and overcome the adversities, it makes us admire and support her. The soldiers start threatening to shoot her yet she continues forwards to them, while this is happening the music is a deep bass suspenseful sound while a drum beats creating tension. As she’s walking towards him and getting closer pan flutes start to play and all other sounds tune out you can see him shouting but can’t hear it, there’s a close up shot as she closes her eyes and a flashback to her father doing the exact same thing before he was assassinated, pan flutes also played then. Pan Flutes are a traditional Burmese instrument and show their connection to their country that they are preparing to die for. Sounds start to tune back in and we can hear the soldier counting down from three. Everything becomes silent as she closes her eyes to die and a single drum beat sounds signifying the end, yet before she can be shot another soldier shouts “Stop let them go we’re pulling out “. Sound like wind and chatter start to come back quickly like a sigh of relief, ending the suspense. his gun clicks back and she’s safe. This scene is a parallel to her own father’s death yet a difference was that the soldier counted down, gave her a chance. This kind of act from him shows how the country is already slightly changing. This similarity between her and her father’s scenes makes us, the viewer feel the same admiration for Aung San Suu Kyi as we did her father in the first scene.
Because visuals are important for Luc Besson’s auteur style cinema du look, there’s a lot of attention paid to the costumes and their details. In this scene Aung San Suu Kyi and her people are wearing lighter coloured clothing than the soldiers who are all wearing military green, this shows Luc Besson’s auteur style by showing the contrast between the good and the bad or the light and the dark. This contrast we see makes us more drawn to Aung San Suu Kyi as she is shown as the protagonist and it makes us hope for her to win and we feel a want for her success. She is also wearing flowers around her neck and in her hair, in Burmese culture flowers can be used to represent many different things, the yellow and white flowers around her neck could be padauk and thazin, which are the national flowers of Burma. These show her relationship and connection with her country that she’s trying to save. It makes the audience support her and hope for her success, seeing her connections to the country she’s fighting for makes her seem more grounded and linked with Burma. The soldiers in this scene are wearing a red band on their upper arm and the same red scarves as the men who assassinated her father, these represent the communist government they serve, the men wearing these are being aggressive and pushing people about. The red is very prominent in the mid shot of all the soldiers lined up to shoot her as it is the only other colour amongst all the military green, it once again shows Luc Besson’s auteur style of the people in authority being merciless and brutal. These men all lined up wearing red are preparing to shoot an innocent woman. The red allows the audience to identify them as the communist antagonists and feel dread when they appear, like in the first scene with her father Aung San.