The story concerns the British officer Lomax (played by Colin Firth), who seeks to heal his long-suppressed war-trauma from twenty years earlier, assisted by his new love (played by Nicole Kidman) and his best friend. During World War II both men had been captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp, forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway in the Malaysian peninsula.
During his imprisonment Lomax had built a radio and was brutally tortured by the Japanese, leaving him with PTSD which threatens to derail his new marriage. Supported by his new wife and best friend, Lomax decides to return to Burma to confront his war-time enemy and torturer and exorcise the trauma demons from his psyche.
I appreciated this film/story’s truthfulness and authenticity in many respects. While it does show the emotional and personal trauma of war-violence – it does not dwell on them more than the minimum necessary for the story (unlike the films of Quentin Tarantino and many war-movies). It shows the psychological truth that to really heal the effects of PTSD, rather than just cover them over, the empathic trust and love of a friend or partner is essential.
In the film, it is Lomax’s new wife who plays that role. His fellow-veteran from the war, who has no one he can trust, hangs himself. In therapy situations that are successful, it may be the therapist can play that role. The empathy needs to be genuine – it can’t just be pretended – and for torture situations that’s really difficult. I also appreciated that the film and Lomax’s story do not use his confrontation with the Japanese officer who tortured him for revenge or pay-back, which would simply continue the karmic chain, but for truth-telling with sincere remorse.
This reminded me of the truth-and-reconciliation rituals developed in South Africa and other places; and of the movements, in the US and elsewhere, where families who have lost loved ones to murder, step out of the cycle of “an eye for an eye”, and seek to connect with the perpetrators, opposing the death penalty for all capital cases. See the film – you won’t regret it.
Filed under: Current Events, Films, Modern History, Politics, Roots of War & Domination | Tagged: Colin Firth, Eric Lomax, Japanese POW Camps, Jonathan Teplitsky, Nicole Kidman, PTSD, Quentin Tarantino, recovery from trauma, Thai-Burma Railroad, The Railway Man, World War II |