Moonlight Sonata

This movie, directed by Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, is based on the famous musical piece by Beethoven. The casts are Lu Min, Ye’ Tite, Htun Eaindra Bo and Aye Myat Thu. The plot is :

Htun Eaindra Bo is Lu Min’s wife and she has an illness concerning with her memory. She can’t even remember her own husband and daughter. Lu Min tells her story of themselves to help her remember but it’s no use. Aye Myat Thu is a devoted daughter who loves her mother and takes care of her. When her boss revealed his affection to her, she rejected him and quit her job immediately. Her boss, Ye’ Tite, didn’t want to give up too easily so he contacted Lu Min. Lu Min told him that she rejects every men who approached her ‘cuz she believes that no man is faithful in this world, even her own father. She believed that her mother became mentally ill ‘cuz her father cheated on her.

Lu Min explained to Ye’ Tite the story of how his peaceful marriage was destroyed after meeting Aye Myat Thu (another person). She was his student at the music school who specialized in cello. His wife didn’t like her ‘cuz of the way she acts around him.

One day, she came over to their house during a storm and played Moonlight Sonata to him. Htun Eaindra Bo got pissed so she slapped her and told her not to come near her husband again. Aye Myat Thu threatened that she’ll regret this day for the rest of her lives and left. On that night, she died in a car accident so HEB blamed herself. Further worse, she kept seeing Aye Myat Thu everywhere, wearing a wet red blouse and a black skirt, which were worn on the day she died. She believed that AMT reincarnated as her unborn baby. Sometimes, she see a little girl instead of AMT. To make it short, she gave birth and her memory gave away through out time. After hearing about the tragic story, Ye Tite asked Lu Min to arrange a meeting with his daughter. His daughter rejected his proposal again of course. On the way home, she decided to rush home in the rain. Seeing her soaking wet in red and black clothing, HEB called her by her former name.

I won’t give away the ending so I’ll end now.

Aside from his dreadful hair color (which appeared occasionally made me think of an orangutan), Lu Min’s acting is pretty good according to my mother. Me, I don’t know how to recognize good acting ‘cuz I can only recognize terrible acting, which thankfully are not included in this movie. Sometimes, Ye’ Tite and Aye Myat Thu made me laugh, seeing their acting and hearing their lines. I really can’t help but adding lines of my own and comments after them :D. Also, it’s a bit annoying to hear AMT say words by words, like I’ll be back soon.

At first, I assumed that the movie is a psycho movie, probably like The Last Poem, which was the last movie by MHKKG before this one but I was wrong. When HEB started hallucinating, AMT acted like someone from a Korean scary film. I must admit that sometimes she was a bit creepy. But after seeing Yoon Yoon, I can’t help bursting in laugher ‘cuz she’s just so cute and adorable (see the above pic).

Just because the movie name is Moonlight Sonata, it doesn’t mean that the music should be repeated over and over again in the background. I do like that fact that piano music is used in the background. However, it’s too loud and I could barely hear the dialogues. English subtitle is included at the bottom but sometimes it went out of sync. I rather prefer a Myanmar subtitle ‘cuz sometimes I can’t make out what they are saying.

I have to say that I don’t actually like this movie but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. It’s still a whole better than other typical Myanmar movies.

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5 thoughts on “Moonlight Sonata

  1. Before I write anything, I must give my heartfelt congratulations to you on your latest movie, Moonlight Sonata. Not only do I think it’s your best film by far, I must say that it’s become my third most favorite Burmese film of all time. (My first and second most favorite are of long ago (and, embarrassingly, I don’t even remember their titles!) The first one was with Win Oo who played seven twin brothers and it has seven famous actresses at that time as the seven brothers’ respective wives whose characteristics were based on the seven sins according to the Christianity. Perhaps, you can remember the title of that movie. The second most favorite of mine is with Swe Zin Hteik and U Kyauk Lone. She played a village lunatic impregnated by U Kyauk Lone and the whole village blamed his son of the deed. I can’t believe we used to make such good movies back then. Anyway, there’s no use in the reminiscence of a good old past and I would like to concentrate on the present, which is the awesome and haunting Moonlight Sonata.

    Of all the fine points of the film, the extra marks go for your attention to the most overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of the film, which is the sound. Even here, it’s very easy to find a decent camera operator, good lighting crew, and good editor. But finding a good sound editor or sound operator is harder. Also among the audience and film students like me, sound is the very last thing we pay attention to and the schools offer Sound Analysis classes and Music in Film classes to make the students to realize and appreciate the vital function it plays in the films.

    Moonlight Sonata, of course, being a film that centers on a famous Beethoven piece, must feature a prevalent musical score. That much is an easy point. But your creative choice of not copying the piano score directly, rather, converting it into a cello piece is a brave and great decision. (And my congratulations extend to all the musicians involved in this film.) Also, since cello is a more versatile instrument than a piano, you are able to tweak the score into whatever mood you would like to convey. I paid great attention to the score throughout the film and I really like the way Moonlight Sonata was played in a variety of way to convey various moods: fright, romance, nostalgia, etc.
    Another good point you made with the sound is actually in the very beginning for the opening scene. We hear the grinding of thanatkha bark before we see anything. The grinding noise persists on a good few seconds while the screen is still black. That indicates that this film has the sound as a salient element and the active and observant viewers should be able to perceive that.

    While the sound aspect is laudable, the visual cannot be overlooked either. Kandawgyi scenes where a lot of crucial conversations take place have a diffused dream-like look. (Actually, I wish you employed the same look for most of the rooftop scenes in Beyond the Dream, maybe you can apply the aftereffect in the lab one of these days.) The sequence of Aye Myat Thu, dressed in a menacing red shirt, playing the red cello in a rainy night at Lu Min’s house is truly memorable. In fact, I like the way red color is assigned to Aye Myat Thu in one way or the others. Even in the scenes when she wasn’t wearing red, her lipstick colors would be in various shades of red.

    The compositions of camera angles and characters are another superb examples. In a psychological thriller such as this, the symmetrical composition always works because our normal perspectives are that of chaos and randomness. But with the rigid symmetry, we are naturally forced to limit or alter our perspectives; hence, preparing ourselves to the shock or discomfort the film would offer. Also, twice in the film, in the living room scenes where Aye Myat Thu grind the thanatkha bark and apply the paste on her mother, the two women are on the left of the frame and whenever Lu Min would come in, he would come in from the right. He does not cross over to the left whenever Aye Myat Thu is in the scene, indicating the emotional distance and barriers that exist between the daughter and the father. After Aye leaves, however, he crosses over to the other side to be with his wife. Whenever Aye M Thu and Lu Min have to sit close to one another, it’d be in a forced situation such as to confront Ye Teik’s parents or to be in a car, etc. In fact, that very emotional gap between the two leads to Aye Myat Thu’s decision to walk back home in the rain, which ultimately leads to the tragedy.

    Now the tragedy takes us to the ending of the film. I think I understand why you chose (or should I say, were forced to choose, {wink, wink, censorship}) that sort of ending. I am sure a lot of people will be disappointed. But, for me, I absolutely love it. I have been reading so many ancient Greek tragedies and watching many tragic, brutal films that I now long for a tragedy in a different way that is not explicit or apparent. In other words, I (as well as many others like me) now prefer a cerebral or existential tragedy (for example, being stuck in a limbo, not getting anywhere, not being able to achieve something, having to live with something bad or guilt for the rest of your lives, etc.) to a physical tragedy (such as death, getting killed or maimed, etc.). That’s why I suggested a different ending for your earlier film The Strand (a linguistic professor’s inability to decipher his two beloved people’s last words). Here, in Sonata, you have offered exactly what I wanted. In it, the greater tragedy is not Aye Myat Thu’s death, rather, the death of the dream of all the characters in the film. By slowly rendering the image of a happy family out of focus, you have achieved something more powerful than the image of a blood-soaked daughter stabbed by her own mother. Many great international films have employed such kind of ending. Jane Campion’s Piano is a famous example, as well as Italy’s Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Out, French Nouvelle Vague auteur Francois Trufaurt’s 400 Blows, Jean Luc Goddard’s Breathless, etc. In the romance genre, too, Wong Kar Wai did the same in In the Mood for Love and so did Iran’s Manjid Majidi in Barang. Sadly, a lot of American films don’t employ such a technique and it’s a great shame.

    My only very minor criticism for that ending is the music in the background did not follow the visual. At the beginning of the picnic scene, we hear the lovely sonata and later we find out it is not a background music, but is a diegetic music (meaning the music is part of the characters’ world) that comes from the portable CD player nearby. Then grandfather turns off the player and the music stops. The picnic commences. (I like the random things the characters are saying in that scene by the way.) Afterwards, the image begins to get out of focus as the sonata (now in the form of a non-diegetic background music) fades back in. What I would like to hear is for the sonata to start breaking down along with the visual. As the images begin to get more and more blurry, the sonata should begin to breakdown, too. For example, some notes should deliberately go off or some sort of distraction noise (like in scratched CDs) should be mixed in. After all, the sonata in this film is not only an accompaniment, but also a psychological and emotional indicator. If a dream is slowly and agonizingly being obliterated by the blurring images, the sound should also suffer the same fate. Then after the screen fades to black and credits roll, the music can go back to normal. But, again, it’s just a minor thing I can suggest and, maybe, you have your own good reasons to keep the sonata intact.

    Once again, my congratulations not only to you, but the whole crew and cast and, last but not the least, the musicians involved in this project. You achieved something very special without going to the remote snowy mountains or spending tons of money on historical epics. It is a Sonata that would stay in me for a very long time. I somehow believe Ludwig would agree.

  2. ok..i will save ur comment and read at home, before commenting back on yours.
    however, i would like to say this…i am a mere 24yrs person who have no relation to anyone from mm entertainment. therefore, i think ur message won’t get through unless u mail them directly or something…
    i think min htin ko ko gyi has his own website but i forgot the address…i’ll try to see if i can find it, it’s probably in the name of his video production or something….
    anyway, thanks for ur long comment & review.

    • Thanks, actually, I sent that film critique to MHTKKG directly. He really appreciated it and I guess he shared it with a few people and ends up getting here on your blog. Cheers!

      • Thanks a lot for mentioning about my review. I hope I didn’t sound too negative in my review. I actually think that my review for his last movie is way better than this one because I was able to go into detail and stop being critique of Ye’ Tike.

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