Empire of the Sun An analysis of “Empire of the Sun” focusing on the supporting roles occurring in the four matrices of the film. The film “Empire of the Sun” tells the story of Jamie “Jim” Graham, a young boy who goes from living in a British, wealthy family in the suburb of Shanghai, to becoming a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. The Japanese Empire had been at war with China since 1937 before declaring war on the United States and the United Kingdom.
During this conflict Jamie is separated from his parent’s and forced to carry on alone. Jamie is captured by the Japanese, along with Basis, an old American soldier, who nicknames him “Jim”. Jim follows Basis to Ouzos Creek Internment Camp, where he stays during the war and establishes a good living, despite the poor conditions of the camp. The film ends with the Japanese surrender after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Jim is reunited with his parent’s as a completely different child. The film is American and was directed by Steven Spielberg in 1987.
It is based on a novel written on personal experience as a prisoner of war by J. G. Ballard. The protagonist of the film, Jamie, follows throughout the film the four matrices of fife. In the beginning, through the first matrix, everything in Jasmine’s life is good and safe. He lives an easy and spoiled life with his parent’s and the Chinese servants of the family. When Jamie gets out of his comfort zone and is separated from his parent’s, is when the second matrix occurs. To emphasize the change of Jamie, he is renamed Jim.
The third matrix, the climax of the film, is among other happenings, when Jim realizes that he can’t get his old self back – that he as a child has lost his innocence and by that lets go of his old self. When the war is over and Jamie is united with his parent’s, barely recognizing them, is when the fourth matrix takes place. Here the struggle is over, and everything is turning into another good and safe life. Throughout the four matrices of the film, different characters occur in Jasmine’s life. They are all making an influence of importance in his life or emphasizing a point in his character.
Jasmine’s parent’s and the servants of Jasmine’s house are characterizing the first matrix of the film. Jasmine’s conversations with his dad depict Jamie as a clever and curious boy, full of questions. He enjoys playing and talking about airplanes. Jasmine’s mother is pictured as a loving and protecting character to Jamie, which emphasizes the peace and good times of the first matrix. Later on in the film, Jamie talks about his mom, who would peacefully brush her brown curls, while Jamie would be watching her, and how they used to play Brick in her bed.
Jasmine’s relationship to the servants of the house, however, shows another side of Jasmine’s character: the spoiled and haughty one. It seems like Jamie enjoys being evil to the servants and acting superior to their roles in the house. Even though Jamie is Just a young boy approximately around 11 years old, nee likes to act superior to the adult servants and make them understand that they have nothing to do but follow his will and please him – that is the reason they have been hired. This, however, is turned upside down as the second matrix commences.
Jamie is, as mentioned, separated from his parent’s and taken out of his comfort zone. When Jamie goes back to his old house and finds that the servants are still there even though his parent’s are not, Jamie acts superior to the Chinese servants like he has always done, but he is this time responded with invectives and a box on the ear. Since the parent’s have left the house for good, the Chinese servants are no longer under their control, and it seems like it shocks Jamie to see that the Chinese servants are able to act against his will. All the extra important supporting roles of the film are introduced in the second matrix.
Through the barbwire fencing of the camp, Jamie befriends a Japanese teenager, who shares Jasmine’s dream of flying and becoming a pilot. The youth is like Jamie before the war begun, and is in that way symbolizing how the British have switched roles with the Asians. Jamie is very drawn to the old, American soldier, Basis, who he meets in Shanghai Just before they are taken to the internment camp. Basis is the one who renames Jamie to the common American name “Jim”, and he is characterized as a stereotypical American who doesn’t seem to care for anyone but himself. As a contrast to Basis, is the doctor of the internment camp – Dry.
Rawlins. While Jim cares for Basis, and Basis cares for himself, Dry. Rawlins is the one to care for Jim. Dry. Rawlins is as Jim, a British settler in China, and he has good intentions according to Jim. He takes care of him and teaches him necessaries, because he wants Jim to be able to keep up in society when getting out of the camp. Among other things, Dry. Rawlins teaches Jim the conjugation of common Latin verbs, verbs that are also relevant to the understanding of the war – such as to surrender, to conquer, and to love. Dry. Rawlins is the one Jim goes to if he has a problem. By this, Dry.
Rawlins becomes a father figure to Jim – the loving and caring character. Basis on the other hand, does not care for Jim, even though Jim is dolling him. Jim frequently visits the American soldier’s barracks, where Basis stays and Basis pretends to be a friend of Jims. At one point in the film, Basis charges Jim to set snare traps outside the wire of the camp and while Jim succeeds, thanks to the help of the Japanese teenager from the other side, the real reason for sending Jim into the marsh was actually to test the area for mines. Basis risked Jims life, to check the possibility of escaping through the wire.
This shows how little Basis cares about Jim and that Basis uses the trust Jim has to him in a very bad way. Basis is self-centered and cares only about himself. Basis and Dry. Rawlins role to Jim can be compared to the devil and the angel always sitting on the shoulders of cartoon figures in old Disney movies. Basis is the bad influence, while Dry. Rawlins has the good intentions – as a human being; however, it is always more exciting to follow the bad influence instead of the good intention, which Jim does by dolling Basis. Basis and Dry. Rawlins are two well-known men with a lot of respect among the prisoners in the Japanese camp.
Basis lives on the top of the American soldier’s barracks, and everybody there knows who he is. He is the one with the most possessions and he is the one who always seem to have a sneaky plan to get what he wants. As the doctor of the camp, Dry. Rawlins is also a man with tons of respect among the prisoners. Being a British settler it seems like all the other British people in the camp listen to his words, because nee is the smartest to them. Throughout the film, the commanding officer of the camp visits the prisoners twice: one time he visits and attacks the infirmary, where Dry.
Rawlins approaches him and tries to stop him, the second time he visits Basis and starts beating him. The fact that the commanding officer approaches these two people among all of the prisoners emphasizes that these two men are the most powerful among the prisoners. Another thing noticeable about these two men is how each of them is symbolizing their countries: through their character and through their clothing. In the beginning of the film, Dry. Rawlins is wearing very fine clothes and Basis is wearing much worn out clothes.
In the beginning of World War II Brittany was the super-power of the world, which Dry. Rawlins symbolizes with his lab coat – making him look intelligent and rueful. By the end of the film though, Basis’s clothes is finer than Dry. Rawlins, like by the end of the war, America is more of a superpower than Brittany. The doctor raises Jamie to be a good boy, and he teaches him how to take care of other people just like a father would teach his son. Basis raises Jamie after American tradition such as “Survival of the Fittest” and Mimi are only as lucky as you make yourself”. Basis and Dry.
Rawlins don’t directly talk about each other in the movie, probably showing that they both contain respect towards each other. They do, however, meet hen Basis is sent to the infirmary after having been beaten by the Japanese commanding officer of the camp. At the infirmary, Dry. Rawlins puts the mosquito net over Basis. In the infirmary, we are told that the mosquito net is given to the man who is going to die next. Maybe this can be seen as a sign of Dry. Rawlins feelings towards Basis. Since they are both very dominating characters, it is possible that they feel that if one of them died the other one would have the command. Dry.
Rawlins, however, does not seem like a person who would actually want Basis to die, but abbey in his unconscious mind he wants him dead so that the Americans at the camp would not be as dominating and so that he could have the full influence and say in Jims life. Jim is influenced in two very different ways by these two important supporting roles. Even though Jim spends most of the time at the camp, trying to please Basis, it seems like after Basis has escaped without Jim, Jim starts focusing on the things the doctor has taught him: the Latin verbs, the conjugation of love. I believe that this is where the third matrix begins.
When Jim starts questioning who Ares about him and who he really is. Jim may have thought that there was a loving relationship between him and Basis but realizes the duplicity of this thought, when Basis breaks his only promise towards him. Jim if afraid that nobody loves him but finds consolation in Mrs.. Victor who has lost her husband. Mrs.. Victor becomes very ill, and the prisoners of the camp are leaving to go to another camp because the Ouzos Creek Internment Camp has been bombed. When Mrs.. Victor cannot go, Jim decides to stay with her, and by that he says goodbye to the doctor and the rest of the people at the camp.
Jim peacefully falls asleep with Mrs.. Victor, but when he wakes up the next morning he realizes that Mrs.. Victor is dead – soon after he sees a bright light in the sky, and thinks that it is the soul of Mrs.. Victor going to Heaven. In reality though, this bright light came from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki – the moment the world lost its innocence. This draw parallels to Jim loosing his innocence by experiencing the death of the only person who may have loved and needed him and by that being torched to grow up too taste. Tater letting go, Jim spends a lot to time wandering around on his own.
Eventually he comes back to the bombed Ouzos Creek Internment Camp. Here he encounters the Japanese teenager he knew earlier, who has since become a pilot and appears distraught at the surrender of his country after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The youth remembers Jim and offers him a mango. As Jim is about to eat it, Basis reappears with a group of armed Americans, who have Just arrived at the camp. One of the Americans, thinking Jim is in danger, shoots and kills the Japanese youth. Again Jim tries to use what the doctor has told him, thinking that he can bring his friend back to life.
As the camera is focusing on Jim trying to bring the Japanese youth back, all of sudden it is not the Japanese boy lying there, dead: it is the old Jamie, before he turned into Jim. Jim realizes that he cannot bring anyone back: not his Japanese friend, nor his old self. Jamie is now Jim, and there is no way of turning back. Basis drags Jim off the Japanese body and promises to take him back to Shanghai to find his parent’s, but Jim refuses the offer and stays behind. He has realized that Basis did not want anything good for him, and that Basis is guilty of the terrible feelings of loss running through
Jims body. Basis leaves without Jim, and Jim accepts being alone. He is no longer bound to anyone but himself: a free grown up boy. Jim is found by American soldiers and put in an orphanage in Shanghai with other children who had lost their parent’s. When his parent’s come looking for him, Jim is so scarred from his experiences that he does not recognize them at first. It is in these very last minutes of the movie, the fourth matrix occurs: everything is getting back to good when Jim touches the brown curls of his mother’s hair and is being hugged because he is a loved and missed boy.
The message of the movie must be the difficulty in growing up and loosing ones innocence. In war, life is not fair – lives are turned upside down, children loose their parent’s – and by that they loose the love they need to become successful adults. Apparentness children will always seek love in other perspectives, but a disappointment from these may lead to a pointless sorrow that the child might not ever overcome. Jamie lost his parent’s and by that he lost himself. Being influenced by new important people in his life, he turned into a person he was never meant to be – he turned into
Jim. Whether Jamie or Jim is the best person in heart is difficult to tell – but probably Jim will not be as provocative to other people as Jamie were. He has lost his innocence; he is scarred from his experiences of finding and loosing love and friendship. I like the film because it tells a good story. Growing up is never easy, and especially not in surroundings of war. The film is also relevant to the understanding of World War II in other parts of the world, we usually do not hear of. Spielberg has done a good Job in the creating of this great and touching film.