Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

1983, U.K./Japan/New Zealand, 123m, 35mm

Showtimes & Tickets

Screened September 24, 2023

At a Japanese POW camp, South African soldier David Bowie challenges the resolve of commandant Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose repressed desires loom in the midst of internecine conflict. Sakamoto’s first soundtrack is also among his best-known compositions, and with a startling vulnerability, he also revealed himself to be a commanding screen presence. (Forbidden Colours: Ryuichi Sakamoto at the Movies)

In English and Japanese with English subtitles

Jeremy Thomas: I met the legendary director Nagisa Ōshima at the Cannes prize-giving for “The Shout”, and we exchanged business cards. He was wearing a kimono. I was naturally a great admirer of his, and he had shocked me with his films in a positive way. Three years later, I received a long screenplay of “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence”. I went to Tokyo. The writer Paul Mayersberg re-adapted the screenplay, and the rest is a prison of war camp on Raratonga on the Pacific, with David Bowie, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Takeshi Kitano, Tom Conti, Jack Thompson playing in a war film that has as its theme a love of men for men. In some ways, it was like the camp, as the cast and crew were half Western, half Japanese, and the cultural mix was intoxicating for all concerned. Apart from the food and the mosquitos, it was not a bad place to be for six or seven weeks. I love making films where if you leave the door open, there’s always a lot that comes through it from where you film. We were very happy, and none of the islanders even knew who David Bowie was.

A film by Nagisa Ōshima