Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)

Original Title

戦場のメリークリスマス Senjō no Merī Kurisumasu


Drama | War


Nagisa Oshima


UK | Japan | New Zealand


David Bowie, Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano, Jack Thompson, Johnny Okra, Alistair Browning, James Malcolm, Chris Brown, Yuya Uchida, Ryunosuke Kaneda, Takashi Naito, Tamio Ishikura, Rokko Toura, Kan Mikami, Hideo Murota


During WWII,  British colonel Lawrence (Tom Conti) tries to bridge the cultural divides between a British POW (David Bowie) and the Japanese camp commander (Ryuichi Sakamoto) in order to avoid bloodshed.


Don't be fooled by the title, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" ain't a Christmas film, but an intense, thought-provoking and moving war drama.

Loosely based on Laurens van der Post's "The Seed and the Sower", the story is at times quite disturbing yet very beautiful and incredibly involving. 

But why waste both your and my time to talk about the plot? That's not what the film is about. It is about the characters. Characters that are beautifully developed which allows us to understand their conflicts and motivations. Also it's incredible how the film shows compassion for every character, making no distinction between British and Japanese, using this compassion to show that there is no bad guy, men all are the same, they just find themselves in the position to do what they have to do.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" beautifully shows the atrocities of war and how the lack of understanding between countries can create so much destruction. It also shows both the physical and mental abuse the prisoners had to live.

However, I cannot imagine the film working this good without its musical score. Composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto - also playing the Japanese camp commander -, the score is absolutely fantastic and fits every scene to perfection.

And at last the acting. I read people were making such a big deal about David Bowie being in the film, and I understand why. His performance as Jack Celliers is superb and he perfectly captures every shade of his character. Tom Conti is also excellent as the British colonel, Ryuichi Sakamoto is simply perfect and Takashi Kitano does a great job as the only "human" Japanese.

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