Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) © National Film Trustee Company
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) © National Film Trustee Company
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) © National Film Trustee Company

ACMI presents

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Nagisa Ôshima | UK, New Zealand, Japan | 1983 | M






ACMI Member



Fri 5 Apr - Sun 28 Apr 2024

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Ryuichi Sakamoto created a chart-topping film score for Nagisa Ôshima's wartime drama which can also boast his feature film acting debut.

Set in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp towards the end of World War II, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence subtly explores the bonds that develop between men in stressful situations; bonds that often transcend culture and inexplicably, sometimes, even transcend the barriers between captor and captive.

Based on a novel by Sir Laurens Van Der Post, this 1983 adaptation boasts an eclectic cast including David Bowie, Jack Thompson, Takeshi "Beat" Kitano and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Curator's Note

If ever there was an intriguing film proposition, it is certainly Nagisa Ôshima's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence for the brilliant intersection of the film's cast, alone. David Bowie had just released 'Let's Dance' and was at peak 1980s popularity. Takeshi Kitano was making his feature film debut as an actor and would embark on his directing career six years later. And, Ryuichi Sakamoto marked his first acting role in a feature film.

Casting curio aside, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence stands out more for its iconic film score – also a first for Sakamoto – which spawned hit singles around the world. The title, instrumental track charted in Australia, but it really cut through when it was released as Forbidden Colours with vocals by David Sylvain.

– Reece Goodwin, Curator (Film & TV)

Format: DCP
Language: English and Japanese with English subtitles
Source: Umbrella Entertainment
Courtesy: Umbrella Entertainment
Runtime: 123 mins

Event duration

123 mins



Contains moderate themes and violence.


Cinema 1, Level 2
ACMI, Fed Square

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