Lawrence of Arabia

I grew up watching two of those long, epic-historical pictures…Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments.  My attention span was pretty good back then.  I wonder what the younger me would have thought of Lawrence of Arabia.  For sure, I would have sat down and watched it straight through, unlike the me of today, who watched it in three parts over three days.  😉

My brother recommended it.  I was always under the impression it was a boring film, and to be sure, on the face of it, there’s nothing to indicate what a fascinating, frightening, and overall amazing movie Lawrence of Arabia is.  My brother was right – it was well worth the nearly 4-hr commitment.

The plot is not exactly linear.  Though there is an overarching plot, on screen it kind of goes from one scene to the next, which is part of the brilliance of the script.  It follows T. E. Lawrence’s life in Arabia, from his seemingly unpromising career in the British military to his magnetic and highly successful campaigns leading Arab troops against the Turks.  This is why I do love a good, long movie – the transformation of his character is subtle, yet solid.  Like Ben-Hur, Lawrence isn’t the same person by the end of the movie, and the plot attempts to show you why.

I have never read a biography of Lawrence, and I’ve only seen part of a documentary about him.  This film left me wanting to read everything I can about him (younger me would have got started on that reading already).  The historical accuracy of the characters is subject to some controversy, according to Wikipedia.  It still makes me want to read about them, as well as read more in-depth on these historical events.

What I guess caught me by surprise, and what grabbed my attention, is how untypical the story is.  Yes, there are some stereotypes, even in Lawrence’s character.  In spite of that, there is no typical romanticism of him – what I mean is, he is shown to be a very human and real individual.  His entire persona is romantic – like Robin Hood or something – and yet this juxtaposition of realities, his tangible heroism vs his personal struggles, keeps coming back to haunt him.  He contradicts himself many times, and, being neither Arab nor conventionally British, he is always an eccentric and a loner, just by definition of himself.  The film provokes you, at turns, to both empathize with and despise him.

It is probably the saddest, most depressing movie I have ever seen, so be prepared for that, if you have yet to see it.

Peter O’Toole was absolutely brilliant (and handsome), needless to say.  I should probably get around to watching Lord Jim.

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