The Railway Man Interview
The Railway Man Interview
The Railway Man is a film about Eric Lomax, who was a prisoner of war and one of thousands of British Prisoners of War forced to build the infamous Burma Railway in Thailand by the Japanese, based on a true story and the book by author Frank Cottrell Boyce. Here film director Jonathan Teplitzky, producer Bill Curbishley, writer Frank Cottrell Boyce and Eric Lomax’s widow Patricia (played by Nicole Kidman) talk about putting together their story and about the power of forgiveness and the desire for revenge.
Do you truly believe pardon or redemption exists, or there only exists guilt and shame in wanting revenge.

Jonathan Teplitzky

I very much think all those things exist. I think one of the things that made me very interested in this film, and in Eric and Patti’s story, was that it was a story that revealed and looked at the very worst and the very best of human nature and in a way, defined what humanity is. Very close to the top of that list, what separates us from animals, is the ability to have the emotion of both hatred and revenge, but also find the capacity to love and to find forgiveness in those that torment us, to the extent that Eric was tormented. To me, looking at is as a huge story, the idea of forgiveness is a very important and very interesting thing for me to explore. Because I think it is one of those defining emotions, or defining elements of humanity.

Bill Curbishley

What Jonathan was saying about the virtue of forgiveness - when I first optioned the book, the overriding themes for me were that torture was not acceptable under any circumstances. Possibly some people may justify that if it’s saving other lives, but I found that this was one of the themes in the story of Eric. The sublime virtue of forgiveness is a test for anyone. Throughout the film, one feels that Eric can never escape what happened to him, but he’s able to do this in a sublime way. The force of love proves to be far more powerful than the force of hate and I think this is the lesson that runs through the whole movie.

Frank Cottrell Boyce

It’s not a philosophical position, we knew Eric. The answer to your question is Eric Lomax, our friend, and Patti’s husband.

Patricia Lomax

I think it’s very good that you can recognise something that has gone before, as it gives people a focus, then they see it is possible to go through the depths of depravity and move forward, later. The essence of the film shows it is possible that no matter what we go through in life, that it is possible to move on, if you’re willing to let the past go.

The other thing is, it shows what happens when someone comes back from war. Be it the Second World War, or Afghanistan, or any of the modern wars, and their battle stress is not treated. It’s somewhere that I think my country, and possibly others, are probably letting their veterans down very much. If they get a leg blown off, it shows. But if they have seen terrible things that affect their minds later, then they’re left on their own, unless it’s charity work.
For Eric’s wife - he goes to seek vengeance, but he doesn’t fulfil that vengeance because forgiveness comes along. He wanted to kill his ghosts, and he thought that was what he would do when he got there. And at the end of the day, it wasn’t revenge that he was seeking.

For the director, I think it’s a bit diluted, the critique that could be much stronger, of the British government at the time, who had left to one side all those soldiers. Did you want to address that issue, or you didn’t dare go any further in regards to how the British government left those soldiers on their own?

Frank Cottrell Boyce

The government thing - the surrender was complicated, but in 1945 the allies had won the war. Nobody wanted to hear stories about defeat or surrender. Even the men themselves didn’t want to tell those stories. They kept their own silence, it wasn’t purely a political thing. It was also a personal, and a psychological thing. They didn’t want to speak about these things in a country that was drunk on victory. This isn’t just a story about the Second World War, this is a story about torture, which is a very live issue.

When I first started working on this film a long time ago, fifteen years ago, that seemed like a lost world, the world where people torture people. But now it’s how we do business in the west. It’s part of our policy to torture people. So it’s very much a live issue. It’s not about the politics of the Second World War, it’s about how we do business now.
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Content updated: 18/08/2019 14:03

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