Over the course of six decades, Lawrence of Arabia have been given names such as “the epic of all epics.” People always mention this film when talking about influential movies or favorite movies. In fact, this film gave way to famous directors such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and Martin Scorsese. These forementioned directors based their films off the style of this film. No one knew it in 1962, but this film would be one of the most influential films of all time. Believe it or not, I actually didn’t think too much of the film the first time I saw it. I thought it was overlong and boring. I must have been in a bad mood that day, because I simply loved the film upon my second viewing. The scope of the film is incredible and I love the lush, gorgeous cinematography. The film is sweepingly beautiful and I still love seeing the shots of the desert sun. Everything in the film has a gentle beauty to it, even the violent battles featured in the film, so it’s no surprise the film won an Oscar for its cinematography.
The film itself is based off the historical adventures of T.E Lawrence. The movie begins with Lawrence’s death at the age of 46 due to a motorcycle accident. Then it flashbacks to 1916 with Lawrence as a young intelligence officer stationed in Cairo, Egypt. Around this time, the Arabs began a revolt against the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. Lawrence is given leave to investigate the revolt. However, he creates an army on the side of the Arabs and he uses his army to fight against the slowly-weakening Turkish troops.
Despite many people loving this spectacle, this film had its share of controversies. Mostly in the way of historical inaccuracies. For example, the Lawrence depicted in this film does not resemble the Lawrence of reality. The Lawrence in the movie, portrayed by Peter O’Toole, is taller, skinnier, has a very boyish face, and speaks in a sarcastic way. His mannerisms also are different, and the story goes that Lawrence’s family found the film to be stupid and that it insults the memory of Lawrence. Also, new characters were introduced such as Sherif Ali, who was a Arab soldier fighting alongside Lawrence in the movie. Other notable differences were in the movie, Prince Faisal, the Arab leader was depicted as a middle-age man when in reality he was barely 30 years old. Also, General Allenby, the boss of Lawrence, was depicted as cold and mean to Lawrence. But there is enough evidence to prove they actually may have been good friends in real life. Also there have been complaints that not all of Lawrence’s exploits were mentioned in the film.
Now what is my response to all these controversies? I think it’s a load of bull. I am always for one for filmmakers to try to make their movie accurate as possible. But the bottom line is that the purpose of a movie is to entertain. If that means a film has some inaccuracies, so be it. If I needed to learn about a topic, I would watch a documentary. That being said, movies are always a good starting point to learn about a particular subject (in this case, T.E Lawrence).
This film was directed by David Lean, a master when it comes to epics. We have already seen his 1957 feature, Bridge on the River Kwai. This film is his follow-up to Kwai’s success, and it’s interesting because this film is even more successful, critically and financially. Lean is an excellent director, although he is known for his old-fashioned methods and clashing with his actors on set. There is no denying he created a powerful, influential film. He created a straightforward narrative on the outside, but he raises complex questions on the inside.
The performances are all wonderful. Peter O’Toole, although boyish-looking and does not resemble the real Lawrence much, does an amazing job. he does bring to life the eccentric ways of Lawrence. A powerful scene he brought to life is after a rather suicidal trek across the scorching desert, he goes back to help a fallen comrade and bring him to safety. Omar Sharif, a major star in Egypt, does an exceptional job as Sherif Ali. I bet if you didn’t see the cast list, you would have never recognized Alec Guinness. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t because he does an exceptional job as Prince Faisal, the calm leader of the Arabs. Guinness was very immersed in his character, which isn’t surprising because he always gives his very best. Jack Hawkins does a good job as the manipulative commander in General Allenby. The whole cast does a great job; Anthony Quinn as Auda Abu Tayi, Arthur Kennedy as the American reporter who turns the exploits of Lawrence into a myth, and Anthony Quayle as Colonel Brighton.
It’s a wonder that Lawrence of Arabia was ever made. It was a 216-minute movie plus intermission. It was a film that had no love story (or women for that matter), not a lot of action, and was filmed in the desert. Usually, the big man with the money would have refused, but this film was given a chance and it was quite a chance to take. People adored this film from its release all the way to today. The performances and the cinematography are always singled out. I personally must single out the score by Maurice Jarre. He composed an incredible piece of music, and it’s one of my top soundtracks ever. The film won 7 Oscars, including the well-deserved best picture. It’s a beautiful film about an eccentric man who did a lot to help his country and to help developing nations. There are battle scenes, but the film is not about the action. It’s about T.E Lawrence.
My Grade: A