Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

DVD - 2010
Average Rating:
Rate this:
In a Japanese prison camp on Java in 1942, two British officers, John Lawrence and Jack Celliers, encounter camp commander Yonoi and his sergeant Hara. Things had been going pretty well, until charismatic, rebellious Celliers arrived. Yonoi is a devotee of the samurai ideal; neither he nor Hara can understand the stoic way in which the British prisoners accept their situation of defeat. Lawrence speaks Japanese, and ceaselessly tries to mediate between the prisoners and their overseers, translating both the words and the values of the two races. Celliers' attitude, however, is more comprehensible to Yonoi. He and Celliers arrive at a sort of détente, based on an admiration for the other, but this eventually turns into a contest of wills as the camp's carefully nurtured equilibrium is destroyed.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 10, 2019

I can usually enjoy watching a WW2 drama every once in a while - But, with that said - I have to admit that I did not find "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" very entertaining at all.

In fact, its story (set in a squalid, Japanese P.O.W. camp) was so overwhelmingly oppressive and heartless throughout that it left me feeling completely depleted a good part of the time.

Yes. This 1983 picture did star pop singer, David Bowie - But, unfortunately, I found that he was not very well suited for his part as one of the tormented British prisoners.

Anyway - Perhaps if you watch this picture, yourself, you may feel otherwise about it.

Jun 05, 2019

I'll tell you one thing for certain - (Contrary to this film's title) - This picture was hardly a Christmas story for one to get "merry" about.

In this less-than-glamorous tale about war - I. personally, thought that pop-star, David Bowie was badly cast in his role as a P.O.W. being repeatedly degraded and mistreated by the vicious Japanese prison guards.

All-in-all - I do not recommend "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" as being worthwhile viewing.

Jan 23, 2018

Directed by Nagisa Oshima (大島渚) in 1983 based on Sir Laurens van der Post's experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II, this British-Japanese war-time drama depicts the life of the Allied prisoners.
David Bowie plays Major Jack Celliers, a born leader, in the prison while Takeshi Kitano plays Sergeant Hara, a brutal figure who taunts Lawrence while also admiring him.
Ryuichi Sakamoto plays Captain Yonoi, a handsome young camp commander, who has a fierce belief in the samurai code.
Captain Yonoi seems to develop a homoerotic fixation with Major Celliers, often asking Hara about him, silently visiting him in the small hours when Celliers is confined.
It is quite intersting to see that complex affinity exists between captors and prisoners in a brief postwar period, which seems most touching.

A human POW movie that crosses the usual line of brutish captors vs. saintly prisoners. This film was big in the early '80s when I was at the university. But I never saw it. That's why it was interesting to watch 30 years later. Though MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE was a British-Japanese production, it reminds me of those Australian films that were influential at the same time -- Bruce Beresford's BREAKER MORANT, Peter Weir's GALLIPOLI. These movies constituted a counterculture in the early '80s.

Jan 25, 2015

This is a beautifully made, difficult to watch film. The acting is excellent in most cases, a bit clunky occasionally from the two singers but very good most of the time. The music is outstanding.

Aug 22, 2014

Few movies affect me as strongly as this movie (the only other movie I can think of is "Taxi Driver" with Robert DeNiro). It's a beautiful movie that can be truly enjoyed by people willing to be open-minded and can look at things from a different perspective. It also helps to have some knowledge about Japanese social traditions/customs/beliefs to be able to understand the actions of the Japanese. Overall, I REALLY love this movie. I'm a HUGE fan of both Sakamoto and Bowie, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them. Sakamoto was super handsome and intense, and Bowie was charismatic and charming, as usual. ;) Overall though, I think they did a great job of casting the 4 main characters. They all fit their parts perfectly, it's like the lines between acting and true character become blurred. I love the intense climax, and how you can clearly see Sakamoto/Yonoi's joy in his eyes and the frustration and horror in his face. It's fantastic acting! The music is AMAZING as well. I'd recommend watching the making-of featurette and the interview with Sakamoto about the music if you were into this movie.

Jul 13, 2014

I think this movie is about how people are bound by their culture to behave in certain ways, which can be contrary to their nature and fundamental humanity. There are many examples: the Japanese captain is attracted to the British major, but must hide it because homosexuality is vilified by the Japanese; the British major is ashamed of not protecting his brother during a boarding school hazing due to his desire to remain popular; the Japanese sergeant who abuses the prisoners for "dishonourable" behaviour shows compassion for them while drunk; the "by-the-book" behaviour of the British leader of the prisoners has been shaped by his boarding school, upper crust upbringing. The two events that end this film affirm that peoples' humanity can triumph over their cultural upbringing.

Jul 22, 2013

I didn’t care for the movie. Thought the music throughout was weird and inappropriate, didn’t add to the move at all. Almost like circus music. Great acting by all but long and not very interesting, a serious drama with zero action and zero suspense. It did depict the mentality of the Japanese soldier very well, with their allegiance to the emperor and the whole honor thing and some of the brutality on the POWs. Could have been more intense, couldn’t really get into the characters.

insane_smurf Nov 29, 2012

bowie is amazing! must watch film. this was HUGE in england in the 80's. disturbing & complex film dealing with the vile brutality that was the reality of a japanese POW camp in WW2.

deals with the homosexual love between the camp commander & bowie. 2 musicians acting!

beautiful & sad film, dont miss one second of it.

gay eroticia toned down a lot from the book. read the booklet inside & u will see an explaination from robert redford of why he turned the part down - he said american audiences would not watch a film they couldnt understand in the first 15 mins & the filmmaker replied i dont make films that can be understood in the first 15 mins.

note to reviewer below - no, we are not supposed to feel sorry for that guy

Jan 27, 2012

This movie is based on a book written by Laurens van der Post, who uses his experience as a POW in a Japanese camp as a basis for the story. This movie, unlike others of its day, was shot and directed by a Japanese director and shows a different aesthetic. I'm not sure if this is true or not, I found the movie to be incredibly bizarre, full of casual violence against the prisoners juxtaposed against the kindness and connection that is meted out. The ending is strange and I'm not sure if we're supposed to think it's unfair that a former Japanese officer who once granted mercy is now being sentenced to death, or if it's just nothing more than an expression of reality. Not my favourite movie, I'd skip the first feature on the extras disc, as it basically interposes interviews with entire chunks of the movie (???). There is a more recent retrospective piece on the 2nd disc which is more interesting.


Add a Quote
Aug 22, 2014

Hara: "Lawrence! Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence."

Aug 22, 2014

Celliers: "I wish I could sing."

Aug 22, 2014

Yonoi: "I am right! Am I not right, Colonel Lawrence?"

Lawrence: "No. You're wrong."

Aug 22, 2014

Hara: "So then it's true: All Englishmen are queers."


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at WCLS

To Top