Opening 25 Jun 2015
Seventy years after the brutal events that claimed tens of thousands of lives along the Death Railway in Burma, film director Jonathan Teplitzky is given the privilege to share one survivor, Eric Lomax’s (Colin Firth) extraordinary story of hardship and redemption in The Railway Man.
Eric Lomax, as a boy, had been enthralled by the great steam trains that rolled in and out of Edinburgh’s Waverley Station in Scotland. For years, he studied the Railway Timetables. Eric’s massive collection of such tables date back to the calculated times showing those of horse-drawn mail coaches as well as trains. Eric was a British Army Officer taken by the Japanese as a prisoner of war in 1942. His knowledge of the railway system would be one tool used for his survival.
Eric never dreamed he would one day be a British military officer forced to help build the Burma Railway for the Japanese Military – known as the Thai/Burma “Death Railway“ – during World War II. His full account is found in his memoir The Railway Man: A POW’s Searing Account of War, Brutality and Forgiveness.
Most survivors of horrific atrocities of war keep quiet about what happened to them. Lomax was no different. During the day his pain was tolerable. It was the nights that became unbearable. Uncontrollable rage. Reoccurring nightmares. Physical exhaustion. His heart, mind and soul needed a release from the emotions he suppressed from the unsurmountable torture experienced.
Patti Lomax (Nicole Kidman), Eric’s second wife, played a key role in his rehabilitation as well as his encounter with Helen Bamber. Bamber lived in the Belsen Concentration Camp during the war for two and half years from the age of nineteen. Founder of the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture (known today as Freedom from Torture), Bamber knew victims needed a safe place to tell their story. A place to reconcile. Eric recalls, “It was like walking through a door into an unexplored world of caring and special understanding.“ Bamber’s therapeutic care facility helped him prepare for an unimaginable encounter with one of his former Japanese tormentors, Takashi Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada). A former POW gave Eric a newspaper clipping from the Japan Times featuring Nagase, photo included. Eric immediately recognized him. His journey to confront his former captor began at that moment. Eric wrote that the reunion gave him “a resolution for which I had been searching for years.“
Screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce reflects, “Once he (Eric) had broken his silence. Eric was passionate about sharing all he had learned – that we are better, stronger than we think we are, that being vulnerable is part of that strength, that love can bring you back from the very darkest place.“ Truly a story to tell to the world. Cottrell Boyce continues, “While we were editing the film, Eric passed. We were heartbroken to lose him just a few weeks away from getting the film to a stage where he could see it.“ He reflects, “Eric Lomax’s greatest achievement was to have survived the darkest place and to have left it behind. Why would he want to revisit that in Dolby Stereo and Technicolor?“ Then adds, “His greatest victory was that he was able to shake off the dark shadows that had hunted him and to die with a heart full on friendships, love and steam trains.“
(Original text from Eric Lomax)
At the beginning of time the clock struck one
Then dropped the dew and the clock struck two
From the dew grew a tree and the clock struck three
The tree made a door and the clock struck four
Man came alive and the clock struck five
Count not, waste not the years on the clock
Behold I stand at the door and knock. ~ Eric Lomax (Karen Pecota)