In 1942 British soldier Jack Celliers comes to a Japanese prison camp. The camp is run by Yonoi, who has a firm belief in discipline, honor and glory. In his view, the allied prisoners are cowards when they chose to surrender instead of committing suicide. One of the prisoners, interpreter John Lawrence, tries to explain the Japanese way of thinking, but is considered a traitor.Written by
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, is one of those typical gems that you don't see that often because they are almost or very often underrated. I use the phrase typical because it is very much like that to underrate a non-mainstream movie like this one.
The story sets in Indonesia in the second world war, and tells the tale of a couple of British soldiers out in a Japanese camp for prisoners of war.
It gives us insight between the raging camp of the British soldiers with their Japanses guards. It tells the tale of prisoner Mayor Jack Celliers, a rebellious and confronting individual. It tells the tale of Prisoner Kolonel John Lawrence, who tries to build bridges between the two cultures who collide ever so often. It tells the tale of prison camp leader Captain Yonoi, who makes an effort in running things smoothly with understanding for his prisoners, but who, by the arrival of Mayor Jack Celliers, is being pressured, and discovers a whole new side of emotional understanding. It tells the tale of ward Seargant Hara, who doesn't seem to want to understand the prisoners, and would rather execute them than have them here.
Those 4 main characters come to interact with each other in very interesting ways, and the whole story rises to a dramatic climax which leaves it's impact.
The first degree acting makes this one of the most important things to watch this movie. Both British music legend David Bowie (As Jack Celliers) as well as Japanese music sensation Ryuichi Sakamoto (as Captain Yonoi) both have the lead in this epic picture. For Bowie it isn't this first time he appears on the big screen (The man who fell to earth, The Hunger),but it can be said that this is the role for which he will be remembered. Debuting here, Ryuichi Sakamoto plays the arrogant, and piped down captain Yonoi, and he doesn't make a bad figure with this. Truth is both musicians play very good, but the best parts are for debuting (at the time) comedian Takeshi Kitano (Srgt. Hara Ginko, and stage actor Tom Conti (John Lawrence) who steal the show. Conti's uptight and friendly character gives a lot of sympathetic gestures from the audience, and Takeshi has both the laughs and cry's (Watch the final scene) at his hand, for playing such a funny bastard.
Nagisa Oshima's direction is strong, and he leaves room for artistic influence for both cast and crew. He knows what he wants too show, and doesn't make the mistake of being to dramatic, or being to soft, on crimes that his fellow country committed in 1945. He stays realistic which works as a pro for this film.
The cinematography is beautiful, as well as the set and surroundings, but mostly, it is the score, the music, written by Sakamoto which leaves the most impression. A big plus, on all fronts and a absolute classic in it's genre. A must have and must see.
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