By Amber Wilkinson
October 1, 2013
HIS story is the inspiration for a new film about the building of the Thai/Burma railway during World War II, starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.
But the director of The Railway Man feels the late Scots soldier Eric Lomax would have found the depiction of his life as a prisoner of war too difficult to watch.
Its based on Eric’s memoir and relives his horrific experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war, his post-traumatic stress and what happened when he met his former tormentor Nagase Takashi years later.
Eric and a group of friends were subjected to brutal torture after being caught with a contraband radio at the notorious Changi camp.
The camp housed soldiers who worked on the Thailand to Burma “Death Railway”.
During the making of the movie, Eric became good friends with Firth, who plays him after the war. War Horse actor Jeremy Irvine portrays him in his younger years.
But the former PoW died, aged 93, in May 2012, before the movie was finished.
Speaking after the film screened at San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain, Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky said: “It’s bittersweet in the fact that he’s not here but it’s also a film I don’t think he would have sat down and watched.
“He was utterly thrilled that it was being made. He came on set a couple of times and he saw a lot of still photos and he had a close relationship with Colin.
“But he would have loved his wife Patti to have come home and told him about the reception of the film.
“He didn’t need to watch it – that’s the important thing. The events that are depicted in the film, he worked a whole lifetime to leave behind and he probably didn’t need to see those things triggered again.
“But he would have loved to have known and his book is being rereleased as a result. He would have been thrilled with that too.”
Eric grew up in Edinburgh and lived with Patti, 76, in Berwick-upon-Tweed until his death.
She is played by Kidman in the film, which charts not only the brutality of war but also how the pair fell in love after a chance meeting on a train.
Jonathan says Patti helped Eric come to terms with post-traumatic stress, even though she only has two mentions in Eric’s book.
“Nicole loved the script and what it was saying about what it took to love a man,” said Jonathan.
“We cast her very quickly. Patti is a selfless role – it’s not following her life, it’s about what happened to Eric and her emotional response to it.
“We built up the role of Patti from talking to them and realizing she played such a significant role in what Eric went through.”
The film was partly shot in Thailand, Perth and East Lothian, which Jonathan believes helped paint an authentic picture.
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