Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. United Kingdom/Japan, 1983. National Film Trustee Company, Cineventure Productions London, Recorded Picture Company, Oshima Productions, TV Asahi, Broadbank Investments, Antares-Nova, Jeremy Thomas Productions. Screenplay by Nagisa Oshima, Paul Mayersberg, based on the novel The Seed and the Sower by Laurens Van der Post. Cinematography by Toichiro Narushima. Produced by Jeremy Thomas. Music by Ryûichi Sakamoto. Production Design by Shigemasa Toda. Costume Design by Christine West. Film Editing by Tomoyo Oshima. Cannes Film Festival 1983. National Board of Review Awards 1983.
There’s so much worth taking from this haunting adaptation of the novel by Laurens Van Der Post that you should ignore its weaknesses and watch it. David Bowie and Tom Conti are superb as British officers who are prisoners in a Japanese POW camp during the Second World War. Their sadistic commanding officer (Ryûichi Sakamoto, a character based loosely on Yukio Mishima) rules the camp with an iron fist, and yet can’t help the deeply felt, almost erotic connection he feels with the defiant Bowie, who refuses to be pushed around by anyone. Conti, on the other hand, fluent in Japanese and more humble in nature, does his best to keep everyone safe and sound through his mediation efforts, but isn’t always successful. The cinematography is gorgeous and Sakamoto’s score also a huge plus, but the screenplay is weak and falls completely apart in the last third. The climax that the film promises to build to never really happens, which is a shame because of the excellent work that all the actors are doing.