Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire; Drama, UK, 1981; D: Hugh Hudson, S: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Nicholas Farrell, Ian Holm, Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige, John Gielgud

UK, 1919. Harold Abrahams enters the Cambridge University, but his father is a Lithuanian Jew so he feels many despise him for his Jewish religion and heritage. Eric Liddell, a Protestant Christian missionary from Scotland, also goes to Cambridge to participate in the 100 metre race. Abrahams runs in order to break antisemitic prejudice, Liddell in order to praise God. At a test race, Liddell wins but the trainer chooses Abrahams to improve his capacity. Abrahams meets a singer in the opera and starts a relationship with her. 5 years later, they participate at the Summer Olympics, but problems occur when Liddell refuses to run on Sunday. Abrahams wins the gold, while Liddell also wins.

"Chariots of Fire", an eloquent sports film about running and the feature length directorial debut of Hugh Hudson, were awarded, surprisingly, with 4 Oscars (for best picture, screenplay, costumes and score), 3 BAFTA awards (best film, costumes, supporting actor Ian Holm) and one Golden Globe (best foreign film - even though that category is a direct contradiction compared to the Oscars). Yet looking at it today, the only category that truly passed the test of time and deserved it's award was Vangelis for his truly legendary score, one of the finest musical achievements of the 1980's, a synthesizer music that is often used in numerous films and TV shows during triumphant winning situations. On the other hand, the true story about two heroes who run in order to break prejudice is emotional, but as a whole slightly partial and monotone. Namely, the direction is passive and "too safe", except in marvelous slow-motion scenes of running, the events marginalized and the characters without color. Still, it has a lot of quality, like when Abrahams says: "I'm not running to lose!" or when he enlists to the Cambridge University and responds to two gentlemen not to call him "boy". Today, "Chariots" are not quite a classic, but one has to give praise to the authors for showing the hero how he is sad, even after he won.


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