Monday, 13 January 2014

The Railway Man

Hubby and I went to see Colin Firth's latest film at the cinema - The Railway Man.  It is an amazingly powerful film about a man who was broken in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in World War 2 and is struggling to live his life many years later.  He discovers in the early 1980's that his Japanese tormentor is still alive and giving tours of the railway that the prisoners helped to build and he goes to find him.  It is a true story and shows the power of forgiveness and strength of human character - go see it if you can.

When I was younger, I knew 2 men who had endured horrors beyond belief in Japanese prison camps.  The first was the Bishop of Wakefield who came to open our new school when I was 8 years old.  He had a pronounced lisp and told us how the Japanese had sliced his tongue, then sewed it up again with a rusty needle.  I suppose when I was at school, the war had only been over for just over 20 years, but it still seems an horrific story to tell little children.  I remember sitting listening to him like it was yesterday.
 The other chap was a neighbour of ours - Jack.  Jack lived behind us in a Prefab with his wife Elsie and his daughter Hilary.  Jack was a broken man.  My mum used to tell the story of how the whole street (when they lived in the pit yard) had turned out to welcome him home when he was released - even painting "Welcome Home Jack" on the end of a house.  However on his return, he swore at everyone and stormed into his house slamming the door behind him.  The street party in his honour fizzled out and everybody thought he was a miserable so and so.  No one could have possibly known what to expect from him - I suppose they thought he would be so happy to be home.  When Jack lived behind us, I don't think I ever heard him speak.  He would sometime appear at the door, and he had a wildman look in his eyes.  Most people were afraid of him as he  became very unpredictable - his poor wife and daughter had a tough life with him.  Jack sadly could not live with his demons and took his life in a most horrific way in his own home in the mid 1970's.
I thought about Jack constantly throughout the "The Railway Man" and shed a tear at the end for him and his family for all their suffering and heartache.
This post is in memory of Jack and Elsie Speight.

Edited - to say that a lot of comments say that you would find it too upsetting, but it is actually very uplifting.  It has made me think about the power in "forgiveness" all day.

12 comments:

John Gray said...

One if your best posts Diane x

pastcaring said...

Two terribly sad stories. There's no glory in those war time experiences, is there? Just trauma and human tragedy. xxxx

Carol said...

Looking forward to it, powerful stories. I worked with a chap who was in similar circumstances. Ruined his whole life. Sadly he never found someone to love, lived with his sister. Lovely man.
Carol xx

**Anne** said...

Thanks for this lovely post. We cannot possibly know what others have been through and sometimes our judgements about people are simply not justified because we don't know their stories.
Anne xx

Jean said...

The depths to which humans will plummet in their inventiveness to cause suffering in others never ceases to amaze and horrify me.
I will have to give it a miss I'm afraid. Seeing cruelty of any kind towards humans or animals gives me nightmares these days. But I can see that it's a great film for reminding us of one of the many awful periods in our history.

Jill B said...

Truly horrifying acts by one human on another.
I've read lots of good reviews about this film, and watched the interview with Colin Firth talking about his meeting with Erik Lomax, but I don't think I'll be able to watch it - far too upsetting for me I'm afraid.
xx

Jo said...

Such harrowing experiences which people have gone through, it's so terribly sad. I don't think I'll see this film at the cinema, I don't think I'd be able to control the weeping. We visited Wentworth at the weekend (post on my blog) and really enjoyed it. I'd like to return later in the year to have a mooch around the old churchyard and see the other bits that we missed. I've got a connection to both Leicester and Worksop (your last two posts). My mum was brought up in Leicester and met my dad there whilst working in Woolworths, my dad was a French polisher and the store was undergoing refurbishment. My mum's family still live there, though I've never had a good look around the centre. You should go to the National Space Centre if you have a trip there again, we went a few years ago and it was really interesting. Great for kids too. My sister used to live in Worksop. Again, not a place I've really explored, but she loved it there.

Young at Heart said...

I saw it too and although I thought the performances were great I thought they could have focused more on the reconcilliation and how his life then changed, I heard his wife talking about it on the radio and it was so moving...... my friend's dad was a Japanese prisoner of war and an alcoholic. My dad explained to us how no one recovered from that experience. In 2000 I was in Kanchanaburi, it was increadibly hot, we were glugging water continuously, slathered in suntan lotion wearing hats and wiped out. How they did what they did and how any of them survived it is almost unbelievable. Looking at the photos in the museum of the emaciated young men standing arm in arm, dressed in rags often stoically smiling was truly increadible. I wondered if any of them might have been my friend's dad....x

Rosie said...

Sounds like a harrowing film and poor Mr Speight what a tragic story! When I was small we used to shop in a fruit and veg shop in Bolsover and the man there was moody and sometimes rude and bad tempered with the customers. I remember my Mum telling me that it was because he had been a Japanese prisoner of war so everyone just accepted his behaviour. xx

HippieGirl21 said...

Wow, really emotional. :) But, as long as people are there for that guy Jack, he'll be okay. I kept seeing things on the internet for this movie, so strange to see Colin Firth in it. The last thing I saw him in was What a Girl Wants and Love Actually, 2 of my all time fave movies. He was handsome in both and funny especially in What a Girl Wants :D

diane b said...

Thanks for this review. I want to see it. Sad stories about the men you met who had experienced the horrors of war.

Miss Holly said...

My God what some humans have to endure.....poor poor souls...