Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Scene from the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
scene from the film MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE

Set in the all-male environ of a prisoner-of-war camp in Java during World War II, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, from the Japanese New Wave director Nagisa  Ōshima (In the Realm of the Senses) explores the clash of two militaristic imperial cultures, the Japanese and the Brits, with their differing concepts of honor.

The camp’s commander, Captain Yonoi (Ryuichi Sakamoto), a devotee of the Samurai Bushido code, develops an intense (and eventually explosive) attraction for the enigmatic British Major Jack Celliers (David Bowie) while the bilingual Colonel Lawrence (Tom Conti) attempts to mediate between jailors and prisoners.

This was not only the film acting debut for avant-garde/electro-synth musician Ryuichi Sakamoto (Yellow Magic Orchestra), but also his first film score, which went on to win the BAFTA for best score. Bilge Elbiri from the Village Voice describes: “His music for the film is at times playful, even bordering on pop — particularly in the catchy main theme — and at times discombobulating, almost atonal. The seesawing mood makes an ideal match for Oshima’s heated, surreal tale of obsession and torment.”

Film website: