There are some films that just transcend the silver screen. These are the films that stand the test of time and entertain people for generations. Today’s film is one of those, one of the amazing classics that is being discovered by someone somewhere in the world right now as I write this article. This film is more than just a biopic but also a testament to film-making. This is Lawrence of Arabia.
Before we begin, I am only talking about the film itself and not the history the film itself fictionalized. There is a lot of debate as to how much T.E.Lawrence really contributed and if he was truly the hero this film made him out to be. As a film, it is an incredible adventure, as a historical document it should only be used to spark an interest in the subject matter.
Today’s Key Movie:
Following the romanticized life of British officer T.E. Lawrence (played by Peter O’toole) through his time in Arabia during World War I, this film gives a dramatization of his efforts to unite the warring Arab tribes in order to defeat the Turks. The film begins with the death of our lead in a motorcycle accident that claimed his life in 1935, it then moves back to a time when he discovers who he is and what he needs to do with his life. Co-starring such greats as Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif and many more, this could be considered one of the greatest films ever to be made.
Why this movie?
After we got our first VHS player, I would spend every summer watching movies from my parents growing collection. It would be years before I would watch this one but one night, after exhausting much of the selection, I picked out a thick two VHS set with the name Lawrence of Arabia on the cover. I figured I had nothing better to do so I grabbed a snack and settled in for what would turn out to become one of my favorite films of all time. I was amazing at the sheer scope of this film, everything in it is larger than life much like the subject matter himself. It is a film that should be seen on the largest screen possible to get it’s true scope. From the opening score to the ravages of war, every moment of this film is riveting and I have watched it many times since.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
Opening with a lengthy prelude of an amazing score by Maurice Jarre, we first meet Lawrence, as mentioned above, at the moment of his death. It is a jarring moment but one that really sets the tone for the film. T.E.Lawrence is a mortal but he manages to survive insane odds against him only to be brought down by an accident. For such a romanticized man, it is a sad but fitting end.
O’Toole is at his very best in this film. This is by far his finest work and set a bar even he could never pass. He is enthralling to watch, and before long you find yourself emotionally tied to his character and the people around him. Even in the quiet moments O’toole holds the screen like none other. His very presence demands attention and you find yourself willingly giving it without any resistance.
The supporting cast, consisting of some of the greatest Hollywood had to offer at the time, did an amazing job in their roles. While I would be remiss to not mention the obvious white washing in some of the Arab roles with actors such as Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn, the actors themselves did an incredible job in the roles they were given. While there was some whitewashing, one casting that should be noted is the great Egyptian actor Omar Sharif who played the role of Sherif Ali. Sharif also commands the screen like no other, sharing much of the film with O’Toole as an ally and a friend.
Filmmaker David Lean did an amazing job on this film, having come off of such great movies such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, this was likely his most epic film of his life. To describe the scope and grandeur of his work with Cinematographer Freddie Young would not do it justice. It is a film that was meant to be seen on the big screen and, while amazing on a television or a monitor, something is lost in the reduction of size. I had a chance to see the restored version in theaters a few years back and it is something to behold. If you get a chance, you should not pass it up. If you can’t find it in a nearby theater, find the biggest screen you can with the best sound system possible. You won’t regret it.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is one that will likely never go out of print. It has been made available in just about any format you can think of, from VHS to Blu Ray. You can grab the fully restored edition on Bluray for around $20-$30. Of course, if you are into digital you can find it in that format pretty much wherever you get your digital copies.
As I indicated earlier, this film is just a fictionalized and highly romanticized account of the happenings in Arabia during WWI. To read more there are some great articles to further your interests. I recommend these and further research after watching the film.
Late To The Game 4/15/2019 (Originally published 11/8/2018)
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