Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lawrence of Arabia


Lawrence of Arabia; adventure, UK / Jordan, 1962; D: David Lean, S: Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains

World War I, Cairo. The British army sends lieutenant T.E. Lawrence deeply into the Arab peninsula in order to find prince Feisal and "estimate the situation". But Lawrence quickly blends in with the area, becomes friends with the mighty Ali and Auda, unites the rivaling Arab tribes and starts an attack against the Turkish army and Ottoman empire that controls their territory. After he leads the Arabs to victory in Aquaba and Damascus, he gets dismissed, while the British army turns Arab countries into colonies.

One of Spielberg's favorite films, adventure epic "Lawrence of Arabia" won 7 Oscars, 5 Golden Globes and 4 BAFTA awards, including best picture, and kindliness of the critics despite a few historical inaccuracies, making even some state that even the best modern films can't even touch it. Sometimes fascinating, sometimes stiff and schematic, "Lawrence" is at its best when it plays out in the suggestive landscapes of deserts, by which it gains a highly stylish tone: the hidden leitmotiv is the everlasting nature of some things as opposed to futile actions of individuals who try to change the world. One of the movie's trademarks is the fact that it's almost a one-man-show that centres entirely around the unusual character of T.E. Lawrence, a British lieutenant who was bored with his life, eager for adventure and different cultures - the thing that attracted Lean is almost unbelievable historical irony that not an Arab, but actually a British achieved the impossible: to unite all those rivalling Arab tribes against the Turks and awaken their national identity.

Among the intriguing sequences is the one in which the hero and his group of Arab friends succeed to cross the dangerous desert and get to Aquaba, but he decides to go back to get a missing colleague and challenge the destiny because "nothing is written". When asked why he likes the desert so much, he replies with: "Because it's so clean". But even the images are great, like the one in which Lawrence is at night walking through the dunes or the classic scene where Ali "emerges" from a Fata Morgana; the 4 hours or running time pass smoothly while Lean once again gives a subtle slap to his homeland's past for it's shameful era of colonialism, but it's a pity that the finale is mild, dry and unexciting. Maurice Jarre's score is pure magic (though it's underused), whereas the fact that there are no women in the story, Lean managed to subtly emphasize Lawrence's possible gay side, but the movie still could have been better if in the end the authors delivered a real point about the search for identity in this world or added more emotions in an otherwise 'distant' story.

Grade:+++

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