April 1, 2024

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)


A year ago March 28, Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away. I primarily know his work through the movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, where he stars alongside David Bowie in this heart-wrenching, gorgeous film about humanity in wartime. The movie depicts the spiritual torture of realizing the humanity of your conflict-defined enemies, especially when you come to love them. With this depiction, the extreme dehumanization of war becomes apparent; how dehumanizing an enemy is required for war, and how the act of dehumanizing itself dehumanizes. This movie is, for me, the most compelling anti-war meditation in film.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is also a beautiful queer love story, with David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto playing star-crossed lovers. We get to see the differences between an Eastern and Western sense of honor and duty, and in either culture, how confusing discipline is in the face of desire. The way tortured desire acts out in violence, and the cruelty of a forbidden, unfulfilled love. A movie of extreme heartache that still shows the power of love to soar past the arbitrary, ugly rules created by Man.

Sakamoto, in addition to starring in a leading role, also created the score, in what has to be the most beautiful use of the synth.

As someone who first became acquainted with Sakamoto through this movie, it was a revelation getting to hear him play his greatest pieces in this year's Ryuichi Sakamoto: Opus. The film is a masterpiece and a great way to take in his musical genius whether or not you are familiar. I strongly encourage seeing it in a movie theater if possible 🎹. 

Some screenshots from Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence: 


There was a recent thread on Twitter: "Show me an image from a film that immediately makes you start to tear up." This is mine:


Oppenheimer & Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

40 years later, Tom Conti still holding the emotional/moral center. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is one of Christopher Nolan's favorite movies.


 To all who celebrate, today: