THE RAILWAY MAN
THE RAILWAY MAN is based on Eric Lomax's best-selling memoir and a series of
meetings, over many years, with Lomax and his wife, Patti. Eric died in 2012,
having lived long enough to visit the set of the film.
The film was shot in Scotland, Queensland and Thailand. Major sequences were
filmed on the actual Death Railway, reclaimed from the jungle seventy years
after the events that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
For Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson, finding the right way to tell the
story was the first and most difficult task. Characters who can't or won't
communicate aren't easy to put on screen. Lomax had written that "the ordinary
former Far East POW has probably never talked to anyone about his experiences.
The victim of torture most certainly does not talk."
Their first meetings with Lomax were only two years after the book was
published. "We realized later that we'd come into a story that was still
unfolding. Suddenly a man who had blocked out the world for decades was a public
figure, expected to share his most intimate secrets."
"Initially we had expected to tell the whole story, exactly as it happened in
the book. But when, for example, Eric talked about the aftermath of the meeting
with Nagase, how somehow 'all the pain just went away,' we realized even he
didn't yet fully understand how that had happened."
Comments producer Bill Curbishley: "The book has quite rightly been called a
classic of autobiography. But Patti is barely mentioned. We suspected that was
hurtful to her, but she would never say it. She's a wonderful, loyal,
no-nonsense lady, not given to self-pity. For a long time she refused to accept
that her story mattered at all. How could her suffering compare to what those
men went through on the railway? Yet, as Colin Firth put it much later, there is
no story without Patti. She was the miracle in Eric's life."
There was no doubt that Lomax spent decades nursing himself to sleep with
thoughts of revenge. Director Jonathan Teplitzky recalls sitting, later, with
Eric and Firth. "Colin asked him if he would have killed Nagase and Eric
immediately said 'Yes.' He had clearly thought it through many times." The
filmmakers needed to understand how Lomax could have made the journey from
wanting "to cage, to beat, to drown" his former tormentor to a place of relative
Crucial insights would come from Helen Bamber, who had been a key figure in
Eric's rehabilitation. Bamber had entered the Belsen concentration camp at the
age of nineteen and stayed there for two and a half years. After working with
Amnesty, she founded the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture. Eric says
his first meeting with her
was "like walking through a door into an unexplored world of caring and special
understanding. She learned as a girl in Belsen the importance of allowing people
to tell what had been done to them; the power of listening to their testimony
and of giving people the recognition that their experience deserves."
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