Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence war movie
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Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence war movie

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983, United Kingdom)

Original / alternative title: Furyo

Categories: POW camp movies

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Director: Nagisa Oshima

Czas: 120 minut

Laguages: English / Japanese

war movies info
2024-04-07 / 1970-01-01

British prisoners on Java are under command of Colonel Lawrence, who tries his best to keep the peace between POWs and guards. Arrival of Major Celliers destroys the frail balance between the two sides.

In Japanese prisoners of war camp somewhere on Java Colonel John Lawrence tries to keep peace between the British prisoners and Japanese guards. New commander of the camp, Captain Yonoi, is not a typical tyrant, he and Sergeant Hara spend time with Lawrence trying to understand the western mentality. Yonoi and Lawrence realize the differences between both sides of the conflict, which keeps the status quo - British do not try any radical escapes, while the Japanese keep the prisoner harassment to minimum. The situation changes with arrival of new prisoner, a South African Major Jack Celliers serving in British army. Celliers is nicknamed Strafer by those who served with him in past, because of his natural leadership. Yonoi soon becomes obsessed with Celliers - during conversations with Lawrence he keeps asking about him, he visits him in a hut, where Celliers is interned. The status quo is soon destroyed when Celliers, noticing the unusual interest from Yonoi, begins to test how far he can go...

British war drama based on the Laurens van der Post novel, partly based on his own experience from World War 2, during which he was a prisoner on Java. It is similar to other war movies that take place in POW camps, but instead of concentrating on the efforts of the prisoners to escape or guards to prevent such attempts the story shows the uneasy dialogue between both sides - while Japanese have total control over the prisoners Yonoi tries to understand why they act so differently from his expectations in such situation. Lawrence on the other hand tries to keep Yonoi calm while guiding him to make a decisions better for the prisoners. It is a not easy movie to fully understand without adapting to those two different mentalities clashing in the POW camp.

Our rating


Film value

4 / 10

Realism factor

4 / 5

Adventure factor

1 / 5

Historical accuracy

2 / 5

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence 1983 war movie

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Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Creators of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Nagisa Oshima movies

Nagisa Oshima


Paul Mayersberg movies

Paul Mayersberg


Cast of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

David Bowie movies david-bowie

David Bowie

as Major Jack Celliers

Ryuichi Sakamoto movies ryuichi-sakamoto

Ryuichi Sakamoto

as Captain Yonoi

Takeshi Kitano movies takeshi-kitano

Takeshi Kitano

as Sergeant Hara

Tom Conti movies tom-conti

Tom Conti

as Colonel John Lawrence

Jack Thompson movies jack-thompson

Jack Thompson

as Captain Hicksley

Events depicted in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

World War II (1936-1945)

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence trivia

British actors

According to David Bowie, Nagisa Ôshima directed the Japanese actors with great detail, but when it came to the British actors he just told them to "do whatever it is you people do".


Director Nagisa Oshima for two crucial parts hired musicians turned into actors, David Bowie as Major Celliers and Ryuichi Sakamoto as Captain Yonoi. Sakamoto also wrote the soundtrack for the movie.

Filming location

For the filming director Ryuichi Sakamoto built a whole camp on Rarotonga island (Cook Islands), even though only part of it was actually used for filming.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence quotes

Captain Hicksley:
What the hell’s Gyo?
Colonel John Lawrence:
Uh... It’s a Japanese word for laziness.
Captain Hicksley:
Laziness! Jesus Christ, what makes he...
Colonel John Lawrence:
Why don’t you listen? He means spiritual laziness, and he believes that if he takes away the food and the water, then he also takes away the nourishment of laziness.
Captain Hicksley:
You don’t believe this bull shit!
Colonel John Lawrence:
I don’t fucking know! Sir, I will tell you something that may surprise you! If we’ll do it, he’ll do it.

Themes in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

British prisonersJapanese army

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British captain has to make a difficult decision when his unit is lost in the middle of Burma jungle.

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