Based on the novel The Seed and the Sower by Sir Laurens Van Der Post, this movie is directed by the notorious Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima (Realm of the Senses). It is set in Java at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in 1942. The commander of the camp (Ryuichi Sakamoto) is devoted to the samurai lifestyle; neither he nor his sergeant (Takeshi) can understand the stoic way in which the British prisoners accept their situation of defeat. John Lawrence (Tom Conti), an officer, tries to mediate between the prisoners and their overseers. Things go well until Major Jack Celliers (David Bowie) arrives; his charismatic personality and rebellious attitude destroy the camp's equilibrium. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence begins as a traditional POW story and turns into a compelling and insightful cross-cultural study about friendship, bravery and male identity.

Special features include the original trailer; "The Oshima Gang," a 1983 making-of featurette; new interviews with producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Paul Mayersberg, actor Tom Conti, and actor-composer Ryuichi Sakamoto; Hasten Slowly, an hour-long 1996 documentary by Mickey Lemle about Sir Laurens van der Post, whose autobiographical novel was the basis for the film; and a booklet featuring an essay by film writer Chuck Stephens and reprinted interviews with director Nagisa Oshima and actor Takeshi Kitano.