‘The Lady’, (directed by Luc Besson) is the story of the “legendary” Aung San Suu Kyi and the story of Burma’s struggle for democratic independence.
The movie focuses on Suu Kyi taking the political reigns of her motherland after the terror of the 1988 protests.
The opening is riveting as we see how the coup of 1962 swiftly took control of the centre which culminated in the assassination of General Aung San.
Sadly, the narrative loses its bite soon after this. With the overly simplified characterisation of the tyrant who assumes General Aung San’s power , General Ne Win is painted out as a shallow baddie, which seems really one dimensional in this day and age. The over simplification extends to the series of events highlighted throughout the film. The way Suu Kyi enters her political life shows us no growth or change in her personality. The questions that arise are numerous; what was her life like after her father’s death? How did she reach Oxford? What were her views until she landed in Myanmar, and what exactly made her turn around and start a new life- a housewife with no political experience what-so-ever?
Instead, the film narrows down on specific events in her life, like her first speech, her intial political rallies and campaigning, all of which we can easily watch on youtube or various archival pages through websites.
The pace then changes as we are made to dwell in the relationship between her and her husband (Michael Aris). Yes, this man did a lot and even made the Nobel Peace Prize a possibility for her. But was the distance between her husband and her the only struggle she went through? What happened during her house arrest-what did she do during that period? How did she stay sane and true to her cause? The movie makes her look quite apathetic, like a calm, pristine woman who’s patience was truly a virtue. If she really possesses a steely disposition, how did that develop in her?
There is no question or insight into her life as a person fighting for a cause. The writer may as well had written the screenplay by reading a feature in the Times Magazine! If there was no chance of getting any meat from Aung San Suu Kyi’s character, then it would have been no crime to focus on her children as protagonists against their mother’s parallel life , or even her supporters- or the various students who fueled protests and support for democracy.
What she is reduced to, is a woman who was torn between her cause and her man. I don’t think this is just, in fact it looks like a reinforcement of the typical treatment of women that Hollywood is obsessed with. On top of that, the film was clearly made too early-if the film makers had waited a while, they would have had more substance that related to her life as a leader of the opposition party in a freer Myanmar.