Our Beloved (Kyuntawto Chitthaw)
Director U Win Saung tries to depict the life of the Burmese soldiers, sometimes clumsily.
S INCE military rule, the Burmese audience is used to regard war movies as propaganda. Some of the movies shown for Armed Forces Day every year were models of the genre.
Such war movies are rarely shown in cinema. They are usually aired on television, and people switch of their TVS when they do.
Most think that “Kyuntawto Chitthaw” (Our Beloved), a war-drama film by U Win Saung, is also a propaganda film. Few people actually went and watch it since its release on June 15. It will be off the cinema on June 29.
I decided to see for myself. The director, after all, is a civilian, and not a new face in the industry, which usually directs for TV, and “Our Beloved” is his first cinema film. He told the press it took him two years to shoot it. The film was funded by Chan Thar and Red Radiance film, two producers doing comedy and drama.
My verdict is that it is not a blatantly propagandist movie. The 107-minutes-long film is featuring the life of Tatmadaw-soldiers and their family members -- mostly wives and children left behind and awaiting for their loved one to come back. It tries to show their dilemmas and emotions.
The Five-minutes-long theme songs that were produced earlier this month caught the attention of the audience. But it did not convince them to go watch the film. When we went to watch the film on a weekday, less that 10 people showed up.
The movie depicts the life of Sergeant Mya Toe, a soldier who is conflicted between love and duty (his first girlfriend left him after he told her he was a soldier).
The movie shows the lifestyle of soldiers spending time with their family and volunteering in farms inside the military compound.
To portray the lives of soldier, the director put many supporting characters serving under Sergeant Hla Toe. Then he shows the soldiers having difficulty balancing their military responsibilities with their promises they’ve made to the ones they love.
Suddenly, they are sent on a mission to save five civilians who were captured by an insurgent group. From then on, fans of fighting scenes can rejoice, they make up one third of the film.
The director didn’t use famous actors or actresses, which is common for local films. He probably saved on their salaries to invest in special effects for his fighting scenes.
Over-dressed actresses wearing way too much make-up may distract viewers. The dialogues are no extraordinary. The use of metaphor often brings the audience to laughter instead of building momentum.
I’m always watching movies in cinemas in order to assess the quality of the sound. I may have expected too much from “Our Beloved” as I had heard that real weapons had been used for the sound effects.
But in “Our Beloved”, the background music is too loud. Dialogues become indistinct as shooting takes over.
The most unexpected thing is that most soldiers including the experienced sergeant who has a long experience of the battlefield are crying everytime a soldier dies. (The reaction in the public is laughter rather than tears)
The movie ends rather badly, and it is unclear what the director’s message is. The fate of most characters is unexplained. It is unclear whether Hla Toe’s love is dead or alive.
Overall, “Our beloved”, is not the movie I expected, i.e. a good war-drama film like a Lone Survivor or We were soldiers. I wonder if the film will actually cover the cost of production.
But films depicting the life of Tatmadaw soldiers can end up winning Myanmar Academy Awards – sometime controversially. Last year, Kwoon Lone Yat 40, a film about a 40-day military battle that took place in 1971, and Kyal Sin Maw Kun, a movie about the history of the military, were listed as finalists and won several awards. So, maybe “Our Beloved” will make up for its lack of success with the audience with a reward from the Academy award.
A poster of the movie “Our beloved”.