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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your heart will never be the same again.
I'll keep it brief, sort of. It takes a lot to get me any way emotional over a film, but of all the countless numbers of films I've seen, the final scene of "Merry Christmas Mr.Lawrence" is the ONLY time I've ever cried watching a movie! It's so emotional and moving that it has to be the most powerful scene I've ever witnessed. Overall, a superb film with Conti...
Published on 24 July 2001 by Alan Hodder

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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A powerful movie spoiled by a poor quality DVD transfer
This emotionally powerful film has excellent performances from all the lead roles. I would give it five stars, if it weren't that the DVD transfer were so poor. The image has low contrast and the soundtrack has some noticable breaks and other noises. See this movie, but be warned about the "Second Sight" edition.
Published on 7 Feb. 2001


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your heart will never be the same again., 24 July 2001
By 
Alan Hodder (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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I'll keep it brief, sort of. It takes a lot to get me any way emotional over a film, but of all the countless numbers of films I've seen, the final scene of "Merry Christmas Mr.Lawrence" is the ONLY time I've ever cried watching a movie! It's so emotional and moving that it has to be the most powerful scene I've ever witnessed. Overall, a superb film with Conti taking the honours for his outstanding performance as Mr.Lawrence. Awesome.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A powerful movie spoiled by a poor quality DVD transfer, 7 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
This emotionally powerful film has excellent performances from all the lead roles. I would give it five stars, if it weren't that the DVD transfer were so poor. The image has low contrast and the soundtrack has some noticable breaks and other noises. See this movie, but be warned about the "Second Sight" edition.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST PURCHASE!, 31 July 2011
By 
I. Buchan "antiquarian" (SHROPSHIRE ENGLAND) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence [DVD] [1983] (DVD)
This DVD/FILM is a must purchase for your dvd library. Wonderful Music Score which you never forget and a Prisoner of War story with a difference. There is no other film which can compare to this. The acting is first class from all with each nationality,including British,Australian and Japanese playing their individual part perfectly. I was astounded by this film and it hit straight into the very soul with each character as you would imagine , however, Bowie plays a completely different style of Officer to that which the Japanese Soldiers can understand - they are baffled and turn to Conti who plays his part brilliantly as the medical officer. The SENIOR Japanese Officer and sergeant in the camp are also special, this makes for an exciting and different slant to what one usually sees in this type of movie. The end is most dramatic and emotionally soul searching. it is a film you will never forget and never grow tired of watching = a MUST PURCHASE!!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic- Crime to miss it, 19 April 2005
This review is from: Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence [DVD] [1983] (DVD)
Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is a film which covers many things, on many different levels- the simplest being that of a war film. However to dismiss it as such would be to do an injustice to this superb bit of film making.
The tangled tensions of this prisoner of war camp make for riveting viewing as two cultures clash between their views of honour. The sergeant (Takeshi Kitano) cannot reconcile his friendship with Lawrence (Tom Conte) with his view of Westerner's being weak and dishonourable. In one particulary memorable scene Kitano declares all Englishmen to be homosexual, and thus views his superior's deeper relationship with Bowie as suspect
The strange subliminal attraction between Celliers and Yonoi adds another depth to this already layered film, as Yonoi fights to understand what can give Cellier's such courage to face death without Yonoi's reassurance of Samurai ancestors.
Sakamoto gives a moving performance of a man displaced from time, longing for the simpler times of war and honour, caught in a limbo between his attraction to celliers and his need to do what was right.
The music was beautiful and the cinematography excellent. I highly recommend this film for anyone even if you are not interested in war films- I'm not myself
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well worth seeing but too reliant on its actors and 80s cachet, 26 Mar. 2015
By 
schumann_bg - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
The actors in this film by Nagisa Oshima ensure that it remains a powerful experience that also has a certain cachet - after all, they do not appear anywhere else together, and the combination of the four leads, plus the estimable Jack Thompson, makes it unique. Nevertheless the brutality is completely abhorrent, and I did feel that scenes of ambiguous camaraderie between Lawrence (Tom Conti) and Hara (Takeshi) were quite hard to swallow given how violent the latter could be. Equally, Ryuichi Sakamoto's behaviour as the commanding officer - of a POW camp in Java - is often repellent, which is no doubt realistic, but it did sit oddly with the interest we were supposed to have in his homoerotic concern for the David Bowie character, Celliers. I found that the two sides jarred in a way I couldn't quite attribute to the same person. Even in the same scene, moments of extraordinary violence would be followed by comments - from Conti, say - that sounded just too as if it was all fairly workaday. It may be that none of the performances are all that good in terms of convincing you, but they do have their own note which is interesting anyway. Sakamoto, for instance, has created something on screen that holds attention precisely because of its incongruity. The fact that he and Bowie are both pop stars also pushes the film's interest in this slightly unreal direction. The same could be said of an even more stylised film, Bent, but that one nevertheless manages to be more moving and to cut deeper. The soundtrack (by Sakamoto) is outstanding, if a little hip, and certain visual touches really stand out - a white butterfly on the dying Celliers' darkened head, for instance. Ultimately it just falls short of being completely convincing, but given the awful nature of events shown, maybe its stylisation is what makes it possible as a film at all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The man who fell to Java, 29 Oct. 2012
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence [DVD] [1983] (DVD)
A powerful masculine film played out with a strong British/Japanese cast who depict a film about the incarcerated lives of the Second World War, grounded upon the master slave dialectic. Dynamics which veer from the war camp to pre war lives. The director with one swoop of profound emotional literacy takes the viewer back to Jack's childhood, one of four main protagonists played by David Bowie. The others being Tom Conti, Ryuchi Sakomoto and Takeshi.

Travelling back to an childhood, the Director provides the motives for the behavioural clues within the presenting entrapped adult. Jack could not save his brother from humiliation at the public school. Afterwards a gulf opened up between them, which continuously haunted him. The past impacts upon the present explaining his behaviour within the camp, not to become the bystander to violence once again, but to halt it.

Meanwhile the Commander has taken a liking to Jack and is haunted by him, in a quasi sexual way, so he becomes consumed with his image but cannot express it. Therefore he acts as a protector to Jack to a point, until Jack finally reveals himself and places the bully in a compromising situation in treading upon the codes of honour. Caught within his codes the camp commandant has to act in the only way open to him, much to his emotional conflict and this seals the main segment of the film; brutality cruelty.

The issue of sexual relations within the camp is dealt with early on in the same way, as a master enacts upon a slave in a feudal code. Highly frowned upon, sex leads to erasing any sense of defilement through opting for the death ritual seppuku.

Tom Conti portrays another character caught half way between cultures, the narrator and the cultural bridge, whilst Takeshi portrays the sadist hiding a heart of empathy. Unlike most war films which have good and bad indelibly stamped upon each person, this shifts around, mixing up conceptions. All the characters have elements of each, as they try to make sense of the world they are caught within.

Cruetly, sadism and hatred flow between each, as one message carries through the film; "Merry Xmas Mr. Lawrence" defines one moment of transcendence when the characters are able to escape their masculine prison and connect.

The film has the 1970's stamped all over it, but there are sheer moments of beauty within, that make the film overcome the time period it was set within. It can then reside within the Russian panoply of war films that soar above the morass made within the West. A highly complicated, but easy to understand war film which works on numerous layers, as it outlines a specific take on the world about human relations and how men come together to resolve a basic puzzle concerning the enactment of power in a brutal system.

At first I found the acting stilted, but then realised this is how they were, all playing social roles with aplomb, rigid with wooden nervous systems. Trapped within honour, respect, culture and tradition each side comes across as dignified but also ridiculous, which is how it was.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars your introduction to life..., 11 Mar. 2001
By A Customer
i was shown this fantastic movie by my mother at the tender age of 10, after a feud over what war meant (i thought it was all excitement and boys with toys), with the immortal words of the title above.
And it was indeed. Even at that age the phsycology and raw mental brutality of this film struck a chord in me that still hasn't been struck again. David Bowie is at his out-of-this world best, and Tom Conti was suddenly elevated very highly from 'that bloke off the car adverts'.
'Bridge over the river Kwai's' stubborness made me laugh, 'a town like Alice' made me cry, but this film made me grow up and lie awake in prepubescant thoughts of the nature of humanity...i don't even dare to watch it again in case those lessons are lost.
i'm not saying you should do the same as my mother did to your poor children :), but everyone should see this movie, especially if you like war movies, it ranks up there with 'Schindler's list' for changing your mind about them, and war itself...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An English perspective directed by a Japanese, 21 Aug. 2003
By 
Stephen Lodziak (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This movie is at once disturbing, enlightening, infuriating and moving. If you want to get an idea of the motivations behind a sadistic prison camp guard you won't get any closer than here.
Tom Conti's "One day they just went crazy" is a classic line that describes better than any textbook why such a peacful and friendly nation went down the path it did in the 1930's/40's.
A war film that surpasses all the others.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant and Tragic Film, 5 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence [DVD] [1983] (DVD)
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence was a joint venture between a Japanese and Western team. The film is directed by Nagisa Oshima, in what would be his first English language production. Despite working in a language that was not his own, Oshima has managed to produce a stellar work, that is subtle, powerful and moving.

The story takes place in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp on Java in 1942. This camp is run by Captain Yonoi (Ryuichi Sakamoto), an uptight and strict soldier who is obsessed with honour and the samurai code of bushido. He looks down on all members of the camp as dishonourable cowards, as they chose to surrender rather than commit suicide after defeat. One prisoner of this camp is Col.John Lawrence (Tom Conti), a man who has spent many years in the Far East. He is a fluent Japanese speaker who can converse with the camp guards, giving him the edge over the other monolingual prisoners. Lawrence has struck up a bizarre relationship with Sgt. Hara (Takeshi Kitano) an obtuse and somewhat aggressive man, who nonetheless can show some kindness and humanity when he wants too. Lawrence who had at one time respected the Japanese and their culture has now become disillusioned with them, following the cruel treatment he has to endure.

Soon a new arrival threatens to throw the camp's order into chaos. Major. Jack Celliers (David Bowie) is a roguish veteran of many campaigns whose odd behaviour bemuses the Japanese. He is spared execution because of Captain Yonoi's fascination with him. Yonoi cannot reconcile his knowledge of the bushido code with Cellier's behaviour, because Celliers is both brave and honourable, yet reckless and eccentric. It is also suggested that Yonoi is attracted to Celliers, and therefore he cannot bring himself to kill him, even though Celliers threatens to cause an upheaval.

Yonoi and Sgt. Hara decide to put Celliers under the care of Col. Lawrence. It is here that Lawrence learns of Cellier's past as a burnt out soldier who is haunted by many demons, especially his inability to protect his younger brother from school bullies. Yet Celliers's self destructive tendencies have the better of him. He attempts escape and does his best to be uncooperative and rude to the camp leaders. It becomes apparent to Lawrence that unless he is able to dampen the situation Yonoi will finally erupt into rage, which might lead to terrible consequences for Celliers and the entire camp.

This is a powerful and subtle clash of cultures story. Both sides believe that they are right, and both sides are confused with each others attitudes and beliefs. In the middle of this we have Col. Lawrence who is torn between loyalty to his own people, and his respect of Japanese Pre-War culture.

The acting by the cast is excellent. David Bowie, Takeshi Kitnao and Tom Conti should all be congratulated for their performances, and the script writers should be congratulated for creating such interesting three dimensional characters. Ryuichi Sakamoto's performance does go a bit over the top sometimes, but that is usually because of the Japanese style of acting. Yet Sakamoto makes up for this by producing his memorable musical score, especially the haunting main theme.

Overall this is a brilliant film. It might be hard to follow at first, but repeated viewings will make you gain a better appreciation of the film. My only criticism of the film is that it can be a bit dated in some ways, but its not too distracting. This is an incredibly moving film, and the ending is one of the most memorable and tragic I've ever seen. Certainly one to watch.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly cult and decadent, 14 April 2007
By 
This review is from: Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence [DVD] [1983] (DVD)
This film was kind of cult when it came out. Because of David Bowie of course, but also because of the side of the Second World War it showed. In this case, the Japanese refused to apply Geneva conventions and forced onto their prisoners the code of conduct of the Samourai. The result is of course a great level of suffering, total disregard of death and dying, treating a hara-kiri execution as an honor, an honorable spectacle that any soldier should consider as a privilege to be able to watch ... For these Japanese soldiers it is a sign of a total lack of courage to accept to be the prisoners of those who defeated you. The only honorable course of action should be dying, and killing themselves in the last run. When Jack Celliers is captured, tried and sentenced to come to this prisoners' camp, he is bound to explode the whole situation because the commander of the camp, Captain Yonoi, thinks he is different and might be of the Samourai vein. In fact Celliers is a typical British officer: never yields, never accepts the unlawful rule of the enemy, resists and disturbs as long as he is alive in their hands. Yonoi decides a two day fast for everyone, prisoners included, Celliers will provide the prisoners with flowers for food. He will thus lead Yonoi to absolute mental breakdown and the final straw that will break the camel's back will be the double brotherly kiss Celliers will give him in front of everyone when condemned to die or nearly. Celliers revealed thus Yonoi was attracted, fascinated, hence in love even if only as a soldier with Celliers. So Celliers will die buried neck deep in sand and Yonoi will come and get a lock of his hair before he is dead. This lock will be brought in a locket and deposited in a shrine in Japan by Mr Lawrence, the interface between Yonoi and the prisoners, after the war and after Yonoi was executed. The film reveals thus the head-on and headlong confrontation of two military civilizations: the Samourais were obviously condemned by history, but also by life and war. They could not survive this clash. David Bowie is superb in his role and Sakamoto is just as perfect. Cult it is, but also somewhere sickening. How could such an old civilization as Japan come to such an end? We will forgive the film for the obvious fakeness of all violent acts.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine & University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne
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Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence [DVD] [1983]
Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence [DVD] [1983] by Nagisa ‘shima (DVD - 2005)
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