In Luc Besson’s 2011 film The Lady there are various film techniques used throughout the film to place ideas in the viewer’s mind. Right from the first scene set in Rangoon, Burma in 1947 we see heavy use of film techniques with the goal in mind of explaining to us- the viewer- what is going on. In this scene we see the assassination of Aung San Suu Kyi’s (the protagonist) father, General Aung San. The assassination came at the hands of General U Saw who conspired to overthrow the fast approaching democratic system. General Aung San and all of his cabinet members were killed at gunpoint during a meeting in the Minister’s Building in Rangoon.
Besson begins the film by stating his auteur style instantly, one that is heavily visual centered, favouring style over substance. Besson’s style is only one of a few that have this certain flavor of films, that constantly use this style, the same way a painter eg. Picasso has his own. In the first scene we see Besson’s style come through with visual techniques being shown to the viewer. One key technique that Besson uses throughout the film is symbolism, he starts off the film with a key symbol that is a constant throughout- the red scarf. The red scarf in this film represents the communist movement and how it moves to prevent democracy, this is also coupled with colour as a technique on Besson’s part. The first time the scarf appears in this film is when the assassin ties it round his neck moments before he kills General Aung San and his cabinet members, due to the early appearance and scene that the scarf is apart of, the viewer can assume it is of importance in this film. In a scene saturated by bland colours like sand, brown and light army green the red sticks out in comparison. The red is a symbol for the blood that citizens give for their nation. As shown quite literally in this first scene, when the red scarf enters, blood is given for the nation, irony is apparent in this because while the claim is that the deed is done for the nation, it is under orders of one person. Another symbol shown in the first scene is the meeting itself, Besson is a big fan of using symbols on top of clear visual to show what is happening. An example of this is when all the cabinet members toast to democracy, the drinking of the tea is a symbol for democracy being finalised, but when the assassins come and shoot the members, the tea is never drunk therefore the entire meeting’s goal of establishing democracy is never achieved. This clear and harsh scene, with the ferocity and speed at which events unfold, tell the audience that the war in Burma was a very serious thing. The assassination reminds us that war is not just, people resort to their most basic survival techniques in order to just live.
Another technique uses throughout this film for an effect on the audience is sound. Besson is very clear on using traditional Burmese instruments, on top of this he also incorporates the pan flute which fits into the Burmese sound and adds another layer, although it originated in Greece the pan flute is also used in Burmese music. In the first scene Besson uses a traditional Burmese orchestra sound, with pan flute being the lead melody. There is a steady shaker sound as one of a few percussion instruments being used, this and the odd sound of a bass drum and a whipping sound make up the journey of the assassin to the meeting room. When he kicks open the door, the diegetic sound slows down and lowers in volume, this is where the pan flute takes the lead melody and provides a sad tune accompanied with high pitched synths and wind chimes. Besson uses music for a powerful effect throughout this film. In this scene the shaker and whiplash raise tension for the audience, that tension is then released with the ‘bang’ of kicking the door open. This release of tension is followed up by a pan flute, with a sound so sad it appears to be mourning not only the death of General Aung San, but the death of democracy in Burma. A strong visual presence is Besson’s auteur style, but the use of music and sound really helps bring out the strong visual story. Scenes like this really show the difficulty of bringing change to a country. Even when Burma was almost at democracy, a tragedy like this occurs, and change is halted. We see this difficulty all around the world with the Middle East crisis etc.
Another scene in The Lady in which Besson displays his techniques and auteur style is the scene where Aung San Suu Kyi is travelling round all the villages in Burma spreading the good word of democracy off the back of her successful speech in Rangoon. At one of the villages Aung San Suu Kyi is confronted by General Ne Win’s ordered military, who proceed to point guns at her and her group in organised fashion. Sound is a very apparent technique used in this scene by Besson, who intentionally draws parallels with the first ‘assassination’ scene. Besson does this with the same panflute and wind chime native sort of sound. This sound again is interrupted by a loud noise which ends the scene. The use of drums for tension building, orchestral pan flute and wind chime in more than one scene is testament to Besson’s commitment to his auteur style.
In the film The Lady, the director Luc Besson uses techniques to convey ideas to the audience, as well as project his signature auteur style. The main techniques Besson used are sound and symbolism. This film follows a heavily visual style and these techniques are used to bring that out for the audience’s enjoyment. The key goal for this film is to present a compelling and powerful piece in order to make maximum profit, as well as being something everyone involved is proud of. This film has a very strong message. The fact it is a true story, as well as a heavily visual film, strikes a tone with the audience. People will watch this and see similarities in their everyday life, as well as striking differences. In order to make change, this film shows the effort required to make it happen. This film bears resemblance to communist colonies around the world. The average person is unaware to what extent of horrors people in these nations have to face. North Korea, Russia etc. are some examples. Besson’s style is a unique one and aspiring directors can definitely take away some of his techniques to apply to their own films.