The Seed and the Sower
now filmed as Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1983 (© 1963)
The blurb on the back:
This is war as experienced in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Java in 1942; but, above all, as experienced in the souls of men.
The book: Sir Laurens van der Post - apart from being mocked by the likes of Private Eye for encouraging Prince Charles' 'spiritual kind of thingy' - was a highly respected writer and thinker. He was also a prisoner-of-war at the hands of the Japanese, an experience on which this fine novel was based.
The film: Japanese film-maker Nagishi Oshima directed his first English language movie and - together with Paul Mayersburg - wrote the screenplay.
The role: Bowie is Major Jack 'Straffer' Celliers, a part that requires him to demonstrate a stiff upper lip in conditions of adversity. He makes quite a good fist of it.
The co-stars: Tom Conti is the eponymous Mr Lawrence, whilst Ryuichi Sakamoto - leader of the Yellow Magic Orchestra - is the camp commandant. (Sakamoto also got to write the music.)
Most memorable image: A 35-year-old Bowie appearing in flashback as the flannel-clad schoolboy incarnation of his character.
Star rating from the Radio Times Guide to Films:
Star rating from the Blockbuster Guide to Movies and Videos:
Star rating from the Virgin Film Guide:
Trivia: Nagisha Oshima also wrote and directed the 1976 cult classic Ai No Corrida, which finally became available on video in Britain a couple of years ago. If you haven't seen it, rectify the omission - it's a film you won't forget (in the same way that you won't forget, say Salo).
DAVID BOWIE'S FILM CAREER IN BOOKS