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Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983)

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During WWII, a British colonel tries to bridge the cultural divides between a British POW and the Japanese camp commander in order to avoid bloodshed.


Nagisa Ôshima


Laurens van der Post (novel), Nagisa Ôshima (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 8 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
David Bowie ... Celliers
Tom Conti ... Lawrence
Ryuichi Sakamoto ... Yonoi (as Ryûichi Sakamoto)
Takeshi Kitano ... Hara (as Takeshi)
Jack Thompson ... Hicksley
Johnny Ohkura Johnny Ohkura ... Kanemoto
Alistair Browning ... De Jong
James Malcolm James Malcolm ... Celliers' Brother
Chris Broun Chris Broun ... Celliers 12 Years
Yûya Uchida Yûya Uchida ... Commandant of Military Prison
Ryûnosuke Kaneda ... President of the Court
Takashi Naitô Takashi Naitô ... Lieutenant Iwata
Tamio Ishikura Tamio Ishikura ... Prosecutor
Rokkô Toura Rokkô Toura ... Interpreter
Kan Mikami Kan Mikami ... Lieutenant Ito


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 Mattias Thuresson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Java, 1942 - A clash of cultures, a test of the human spirit.


Drama | War


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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UK | New Zealand | Japan


English | Japanese

Release Date:

2 September 1983 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Furyo See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The original screenplay was nearly 200 pages. See more »


In the final scene in the prison cell, the cross belt of Lt Col Lawrence's Sam Browne is fitted back to front. See more »


[first lines]
Sgt. Gengo Hara: [in Japanese] Wake up, Lawrence.
Colonel Lawrence: [in Japanese] What is it? Why so early, Sergeant Hara?
Sgt. Gengo Hara: [in Japanese] Hurry up!
Group Capt. Hicksley: What does he want?
Colonel Lawrence: [in English] I'll find out?
Sgt. Gengo Hara: [in Japanese] What?
Group Capt. Hicksley: You don't have to take orders from this man, you know, Lawrence.
Colonel Lawrence: Well, I'm the liaison officer, so I'm liaising.
Sgt. Gengo Hara: [in Japanese] What did he say?
See more »


Referenced in Screen Two: The McGuffin (1986) See more »


OH Why Was He Born So Beautiful?
Parody song from the hymn 'Ellacombe', adapted by William H. Monk (as William Henry Monk) from an 18th century German original
See more »

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User Reviews

In the Twilight of the Rising Sun
4 April 2006 | by Yuto_ZeiramSee all my reviews

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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