Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence was the first English-language project of Japanese director Nagisa Oshima (Death by Hanging, In the Realm of the Senses). In tune with his previous filmic essays on racism and brutality, Merry Christmas concentrates on a war of wills between rebellious POW David Bowie and camp commandant Ryuichi Sakomoto. Assuming that his other prisoners' unwillingness to protest their cruel treatment is a sign of weakness, Sakomoto is most impressed by Bowie's enigmatic defiance. While Bowie and Sakomoto seem to be operating on a high spiritual and intellectual plane, bilingual prisoner Tom Conti (the "Mr. Lawrence" of the title) engages in a more standard adversarial relationship with sadistic sergeant Takeshi Kitano.
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David Bowie
as Maj. Jack 'Strafer' Celliers
Tom Conti
as Col. John Lawrence
Ryuichi Sakamoto
as Capt. Yonoi
Jack Thompson
as Hicksley-Ellis
Johnny Okura
as Kanemoto
James Malcolm
as Celliers' brother
Christopher Broun
as Celliers (age 12)
Yuya Uchida
as Military Prison Commandant
Ryunosuke Kaneda
as President of the Court
Takashi Naitô
as Lt. Iwata
Taketoshi Naito
as Lt. lwata
Tamio Ishikura
as Prosecutor
Rokko Toura
as Interpreter
Chris Broun
as Jack (boy)
Kan Mikami
as Lt. Ito
Christopher Brown
as Celliers at Age 12
Yuji Honma
as Pfc. Yajima
Daisuke Iijima
as Cpl. Ueki
Hideo Murota
as New Camp Commandant
Barry Dorking
as Chief Doctor
Geoff Clendon
as Australian Doctor
Grant Bridger
as P.O.W. Officer
Richard Adams
as P.O.W.
Takeshi Kitano
as Sgt. Gengo Hara
Colin Francis
as P.O.W.
Richard Hoare
as P.O.W.
Marc Berg
as P.O.W.
Rob Jayne
as P.O.W.
Richard Mills
as P.O.W.
Mark Penrose
as P.O.W.
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Critic Reviews for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (6)

The Merry Christmas catalogue of atrocities finally becomes numbing, even ludicrous.

Full Review… | December 9, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

From Oshima's later career... most notable is this bilingual, end-of-WWII tearjerker about forgiveness and understanding between cultures, which could have been dubbed The Man Who Fell to Java.

Full Review… | October 2, 2008
Village Voice
Top Critic

For all the praise heaped upon Oshima's admittedly ambitious film about East-West relations in the microcosm of a Japanese PoW camp during World War II, it's far less satisfactory than most of his earlier work.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Here's a movie that is even stranger than it was intended to be.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Mr. Oshima has staged the film in a spacious tropical setting and filled it with a great number of extras. Even so, Mr. Bowie always stands out from the crowd.

August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

The context and frequent incontinence of the execution bring the film uncomfortably close to the pseudophilosophical bondage fantasies of Yukio Mishima.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence


Oddly scripted but intriguing. It's difficult to deny the presence of homoerotic undertones here, making this a most unconventional war film.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


weird film. i think bowie may have been miscast, tho he does as well as could be expected. tom conti is kind of annoying with his perfect preachy character. the synthy soundtrack is good but kind of dated. +3 for beat takeshi in his first dramatic role

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

An interesting and very serious subject, but the characters spend most of their time sitting around talking, which gets really boring after a while. Plus, I'm not sure Bowie was the right person for the role, not that he can't act, I just think a more experienced dramatic actor would have been better. Overall, it's okay.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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