Conflicting cultural imperatives and repressions between East and West collide with tragic consequences in Nagisa Oshima’s enthralling but equally odd World War II drama. Bowie plays a guilt-ridden but duty-bound British POW imprisoned in a Japanese prison camp on Java, where an unspoken fatal attraction develops with the camp commander Captain Yonoi—played by fellow musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, who also supplied the film’s entrancing, synth-string score. Pitch-perfect performances abound with Tom Conti as the titular Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence. Attempting to reconcile the divides between sides, his world-weariness is a poignant antithesis to the brute physicality of Sergeant Hara (Takeshi Kitano). Profound, ferocious, and heartbreaking, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is one of Oshima’s greatest successes and a testament to Bowie’s uncanny magnetism on screen.

  • Nagisa Oshima
  • 1983
  • Japan/UK/New Zealand
  • English and Japanese with English subtitles
  • 35mm
  • 123 minutes