Blog Directory CineVerse: War is hell. For proof, ask Mr. Lawrence.

War is hell. For proof, ask Mr. Lawrence.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

When it comes to movies about prisoners of war, not many are as violent, bleak and realistic as "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence," a hauntingly moving yet disturbing picture based on the novel "The Seed and the Sower," written by Laurens van der Post, a survivor of a Japanese POW camp during World War II. Here's our CineVerse breakdown of this film:

What about this film left an impression on you?

  • It’s geometrically and numerically interesting. The narrative is constructed around a quartet—one Western pair contrasted against an Eastern pair—and also around trio of nested tales. Additionally, the compositions feature a lot of linear geometry, hard lines and symmetrical patterns.
  • The score is memorable and even familiar to those who may not have seen this picture before; interestingly, it was composed by the actor who plays Captain Yonoi, Ryuichi Sakamoto.
  • The casting of David Bowie is a quirky one. On one hand, he would have made this a bigger box-office draw based on his rock superstar popularity at the time (this was 1983, the peak of his fame); on the other, it can be hard to picture the slight and fey Bowie as a battle-tested military commander.
  • Likewise, the filmmakers chose to cast a famous Japanese singer/songwriter in the role of Yonoi, despite the fact that he’d never acted professionally before.
  • It’s curiously multicultural. Ponder that the story was written by a South African who lived long in Britain yet was directed by a Japanese filmmaker.
Themes built into this movie include:
  • Failure to communicate: We have two languages, two cultures, and two sets of men who can’t connect or understand each other.
  • Courage in the face of adversity and despair
  • The senselessness and brutality of war and human conflict
  • A clash of cultures: East vs. West, Axis vs. Allied Forces, brunette vs. blonde.
  • Living by a code: Captain Yonoi prides himself as a follower of Bushido and the way of the samurai, but he is sexually attracted to a foreign man, which is forbidden by his code and culture.
  • The dangers of nationalism and the fate of two fading empires
  • Guilt and remorse
Films that come to mind after viewing Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • The Long and the Short and the Tall
  • Stalag 17
  • King Rat
  • The Great Raid
  • Unbroken
Other films directed by Nagisa Oshima
  • The Ceremony
  • In the Realm of the Senses
  • Empire of Passion
  • Taboo

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