Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983)- Nagisa Oshima
Verdict: Think about it.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is one of the most interesting movies I’ve seen in a while, but it’s not for everyone. As you can imagine, a movie with David Bowie is bound to be interesting by that fact alone. But the entire premise of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is marked with originality. This is not a family Christmas movie. It is essentially a WWII POW movie where the main character, John Lawrence (Tom Conti), actually tries to explain his Japanese captors’ way of thinking to his fellow soldiers with little success. When British soldiers Jack Celliers (David Bowie) comes into camp with his own way of thinking, things become even more difficult. Lawrence, winds up explaining world-views to both captives and captors throughout the film, and this ‘translating’ of ideas, along with the various character interactions steal the show.
Director Nagisa Oshima tries to convince the audience that both sides of the war were wrong, and everyone became the victim of the sense of justice and honor carried out. Oshima’s caution is mostly effective, though a few scenes are uneven and might detract from the overarching message (though they are still emotionally resonant), particularly those involving Jack Cellier’s past. The acting and sound track are top notch all around.
In the end, if you are looking for a great anti-war film with an original premise and emotional weight, this might be a great place to look. If the sound of the political and philosophical message makes you cringe, think twice. Think about it.