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.
by Hal Erickson synopsis
POW (Prisoner of War)