I recently re-watched Nagisa Oshima's masterful Merry Christmas Mr.Lawrence and realized through the Criterion extras that the film is based on the writings of South African author Laurens van der Post. Post is a fascinating character who had worked in Japan as a journalist and had some Japanese language knowledge so that when he was captured he could communicate with his captors better than most. He went onto become a celebrated traveler and writer. This explains why Oshima choose a story written by one of Japanese captive who was somewhat sympathetic to the Japanese rather than a Japanese memoir or story. In addition I think Oshima saw elements of themes that he would pursue in his later film Taboo; how war brings men closer together with homoerotic undercurrents. There are three novellas in Post's collection, The Seed and the Sower (1963): A Bar of Shadow, The Seed and the Sower, and The Sword and the Doll. I was surprised by how closely the screenplay followed the events of the book, I had thought that Oshima had taken several liberties to make the sexuality ambiguous, but it was already there in the novellas told from the point of view of the narrator, John Lawrence, and Jack Celliers. I was also surprised by the almost mystical musings of the survivors of war and the lyrical prose:
"For it was not that how great things began in the tiny seed of the small change in the troubled individual heart? One single, lonely, inexperienced heart had to change first and all the rest would follow."
"If only we could all re-learn to speak out of our common suffering and need we would be surprised to find how close we are to another."