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Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is a bit of an oddity everywhere its title is
listed. Considered by the American Film Institute to be among the best
American films, Lawrence of Arabia is hardly an American film. Its
protagonist is decidedly British and the film was a co-production
between Horizon Pictures in London and Columbia Pictures in Hollywood.
In addition, the British Film Institute also claims it as its own, so
While considered an epic and features breathtaking natural vistas, the film is an epic quite unlike any other. Lawrence of Arabia isn't Gone with the Wind (1939) and it's certainly not a production of the Hollywood hagiographical machine churned by Cecil B. DeMille. It's a movie that has no equal and apart from maybe The English Patient (1996) has no real imitators either.
The film is based on the true story of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole), a British intelligence officer who fermented Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks during WWI. Lawrence is considered a very controversial figure both in his native Britain and in the Arabian Peninsula. His personality alone isolated him from his fellow officers in the British Army who found his assuredness awkward. When he gained the loyalties of King Faisal (Alec Guinness) and helped unite Arab tribes under the Arab National Council to occupy Damascus, the British and the French became worried of his intentions and reined him in.
Those who know the history of the region will recall that after the events depicted in the movie, the French occupied Lebanon in 1920 thus fulfilling the Sykes-Picot agreement. The Arab National Council was disbanded in 1930 though were never the most competent administrators, and the region didn't enjoy the fruits of free determination until the 1940's.
While politics and political brinksmanship is an aspect of Lawrence of Arabia it isn't the only aspect, or even the most important theme in David Lean's masterpiece. Lawrence of Arabia aspires to embolden the unconventional. To make us aware of an individual who, while being a small cog in a big machine, was too unique to be replaced, altered or replicated. The famous tableau in which Lawrence slowly moves towards the frame from a mile away against the harshness of the desert is a visual metaphor of such an aspiring theme.
Heck, even Peter O'Toole's physical shape and body language is a visual metaphor for the value of unconventionality. His frame is lanky and frail and his body language and speech patterns balance between discreet and cocksure. Yet while his physical appearance is the antipathy of modesty, his every action is done with grandeur. While everything he says is said softly, what he says is self-assured. He has the heart of Othello born in the body of Iago.
At 216 minutes long, Lawrence of Arabia may not be for the huddled masses populating today's movie theaters, but the film has been a must see for the last 50 years for good reason. Anyone who claims to love films and does not like Lawrence of Arabia must loose all credibility. Tough talk coming from someone who didn't think 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was all that and a packet of bubble gum. But the plain truth of the matter is Lawrence of Arabia is a masterpiece in storytelling, in filmmaking, in entertainment and in artistry. The fact that it's an hours-long sprawling epic just makes it all the more impressive and all the more required viewing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lawrence of Arabia was a film that I really wanted to watch but
couldn't find the time to do so (due to the 216 min length of the film)
and I finally did today, I am writing this just after I watched it. I
hesitated a bit, as you see it's a really long movie and I am not
really into history movies, but this one is truly a remarkable one. The
film has lots of memorable characters and quotes, I couldn't help
myself but stop the movie and write down some dialogs every once in a
So, the film is, as everyone would agree, visually fascinating, especially when you think of 1960's movies this distinction becomes more clear. Especially the desert scenes are breathtaking, another remarkable one (at least to me) is Lawrence walking on the train that his "tribe" just robbed. Perfect.
Another thing that really was remarkable is that how Lawrence couldn't help himself sing when he found out the echo in the valley. Lawrence's childish side was a dominant aspect throughout the movie, and this scene was the perfect reflection of that; a man singing and listening to his own voice's echo even though he knows he's going into a war. Another memorable and perfect scene.
When the Turkish tortured Lawrence but he showed no sign of pain I couldn't help myself but remember the lines "The trick is not minding that it hurts".
As you know the film was based on T. E. Lawrence's diaries. Which helped David Lean create a perfect image of him, as every single event was seen by Lawrence's point of view. I don't even see the need to speak of Peter O'Toole's acting as it was nothing but pure perfection, he literally changed the Lawrence image in my mind. The music was also perfect, Maurice Jarre did a great work. I noticed how many times I used the word "perfect", sorry for that, but I couldn't find another word that describes this film better.
All in all, Lawrence Of Arabia is visually, musically appealing and the plot is also amazing, so if you haven't seen it yet, you definitely should. Trust me, "It is going to be fun"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw the restored version over 20 years ago but in a pan and scan
version on television. I watched it again recently with the recent
passing of Peter O'Toole, this time on widescreen and high definition.
The film is known for its epic cinematography and vistas of the vast desert landscape. David Lean's film is the definition of the epic picture.
When John Milius made the Wind and the Lion, he boasted look we are making our own epic film just like Lawrence of Arabia and then realised why it was so easy, Lean did it first and they were just following in his footsteps.
Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorcese were involved in the restored version and have also acknowledged the film's influence on them. In fact the screenplay of Lawrence of Arabia is the prototype that other's have used as a template whether its drama, action or adventure. You do not just go to Aqaba, you take a detour to find a fallen Arab (Gasim) and head back to find the rest. Later when a blood feud is ignited and Lawrence decides things would be better if it was he who killed the murderer, who does the culprit turn out to be, Gasim, the man who he risked his own life to save.
The film's opening scenes acknowledges Lawrence flawed character as we get differing opinions of him from the off. Peter O'Toole's Lawrence is perplexing, infuriating, cultured, enigmatic and pig headed. O'Toole sculptured a character that very much defined his career. It seems unbelievable that he never won an Oscar for best actor for this film or for any of his subsequent nominations.
There might be liberties taken with actual events. In reality Omar Sharif's character 'Sherif Ali' is a composite of several people and Anthony Quinn's Auda was more urbane, intellectual and cultured rather than the brute shown in the film.
Maybe there are too many desert scenes in the film with sunrises and sunset. There are hardly any female characters in the movie. However you get a vast epic and a literary screenplay that will stand the test of time. It is a deserved classic.
Considering that our earthly wandering in its part consists of many
rather obnoxious and disappointing film experiences, it's still so that
even one blissful erases a hundred sour ones. These wonderful films, so
much larger than life, it seems, that the disks they're stored on
hardly contain them, ferocious as they are, make the heart beat faster.
I've seen this quite a few times, and still it always puts me in my place as if I had somehow managed to unravel its secrets. Each time the journey is, as it is with the greatest of epic masterworks ("2001: A Space Odyssey", "Profound Desires of the Gods" and their ilk) not only undiminished but even more powerful. Some of the images are so strong I'm not only carrying them with me but implementing them in my own life.
And this only considering the visual narrative. This is, in other respects as well, perfect. The cinematography, music, script and dialogue, the ensemble acting, and, above all, O'Toole. He's so brilliant: Proustian in his self-reflexive fragility, flamboyantly sexy (more than Deloin at his most Deloin, or Bowie at his most Bowie).
Please remember that film criticism offers subjective opinion as objective fact, and is more than anything an exercise in projected power. That said, this is so perfect it's hard not to be vague, not to lapse into paroxysms of emotion and say nothing at all. This might not be a bad thing in the end, however. One of the motifs in the film is the film is exactly this kind of otherworldliness and the disconnect between the two worlds: how can anyone in the film understand why Lawrence fell in love with the desert, and did the things he did, except for us, who were there with him?
Lawrence of Arabia is a visually stunning epic from acclaimed director
David Lean (The Bridge on the River Kwai) On the visual side of things,
this film is made to be shown on a big screen, with it's jaw dropping
desert vistas and blue skies. It also helps to have the whole home
cinema experience because the dramatic score by Maurice Jarre is
incredibly beautiful and really sets the mood. For those unfamiliar
with the movie, i'm sure you've heard the soundtrack sampled many a
times in pop culture shows such as The Simpsons. On the acting side of
things it features an incredible performance from actor Peter O'Toole
who portrays T.E Lawrence in the film. O'Toole gives Lawrence quite a
bit of depth and humanity and his unique mannerisms make him
fascinating to watch. One thing to note: Be weary, the film goes for a
whopping 3 hours and 47 minutes, so clear your schedule before sitting
down to watch this classic film. Of course it does have an intermission
about halfway through.
I recommend buying this film and blu ray. If you love film, Arabian deserts, WW1 history and epics than i'm sure you'll love this film too.
The epic of the epics, the film that if never had been done, not only
today's cinema wouldn't be the same but we would never know the great
man that was T.E Lawrence.
"Lawrence of Arabia" was the epic that redefined cinema forever, not only gave us a cinematic spectacle of grandeur but also gave us one of the most beautiful stories ever told in cinema.
By the beginning, the film suggests that it is a biography (which partly is) where we witness Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) suffering a motorcycle accident that leads him to a terrible death. Then the movie jumps to a younger Lawrence, a young playful, petulant and worship lieutenant, that is being highlighted for a mission in the desert that at the beginning was just a reconnaissance mission that ended up being one of the salvations of the 1st world war.
Screenwriters Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson not only try to show the historical side of the film featuring various encounters and battles that marked the history (which are well represented in the film) but mainly it tries to show the man that was Thomas Edward Lawrence ("T.E" get it?). Lawrence was mostly known for being a hero by some and a charlatan or sadist by others, the film shows that with a tremendous mastery that try to say that Lawrence was much more than that, he was a human like any other.
Lawrence establishes several visions of himself throughout the film: at the beginning for his comrades English he is a young petulant and playful lieutenant; later for his Arabs comrades a true messiah that crosses whole deserts without tiring and joins people without rivalry; and later by their British comrades a petulant and playful and very courageous now Major. Even nourishing various visions throughout the film, the script never loses focus giving a great evolution of the character and also the historic events in their correct time line, always with an amazing mastery.
The story itself is already beautiful but the direction of David Lean makes it magnificent. A film that seems to improve with each passing scene and also gives the film an incredible magnitude with lush landscapes of the Arabian desert. Not only landscapes but also the incredible epic battles, one that stands out is the massive invasion of the city of Aqaba filmed in a large-scale placing the huge Arab army in one shot of the camera during the massive invasion. Such a scene would be filmed today with the use of visual effects, losing the brilliance of David Lean magic that is felt in each of his scenes throughout the film.
The cast also stands out without difficulty; each of the historical figures had superb performances since Omar Sharif as Sheriff Ali to Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal. All great in their roles, but who stands out with a lush performance is undoubtedly the great Peter O'Toole as Lawrence, showing his character the man that Lawrence was from a playful to rebel; from peaceful to a warrior; from a English gentleman to an Arab messiah, all in with a great perfection.
If one word could describe the masterpiece of David Lean it would undoubtedly be magnificent. Everything works marvelously since the pacing to a brilliant script and a lush direction that tells's the incredible journey of a man in a film that goes from a huge adventure to a war epic. "Lawrence of Arabia" is the miracle of cinema, an epic film that is seriously required to be seen by all cinema lovers.
This film features some of the best cinematography ever done, you really get the feeling for the vast expanse of the landscape, the heat of the desert. The scene where Lawrence returns from the desert, slowly appearing, first only as a speck, in the boiling air - brilliant and not a second too long. And you can't beat hundreds of extras running and riding through giant sets. (btw, there are some blue-screen shots with o'Toole and Sharif on camel-back, those don't ring true) Peter O'Toole is amazing, but I have to disagree about many of the other roles - OK, it was a different time, but some of the performances were plain cheesy or over-the-top, even Olivier and Sharif. Also, while I'm skeptical about today's PC-brainwashed stories, the different factions were presented in a very one-dimensional way, the running time would have allowed for more nuanced characters. Not a film I'd watch very often, but definitely worth the money if you can catch it on a big screen, preferably a 70mm copy. Look for those detailed sets with the tiny mosaic and wood inlay works, or the wide-angle landscape shots! Amazing ...
Few films have gained the praise that David Lean's "Lawrence Of Arabia"
has. Followed by a both immense critical and commercial success, it is
acclaimed as one of the greatest cinematic achievements ever made, in
which almost every artistic aspect of it is considered an archetype of
great film-making. Starring Peter O'Toole as the title character, it
also boasts a lot of great supporting roles, from Alec Guinness to
A well-educated but rebellious at heart British officer, Lawrence, is sent in the Arab desert during World War I to fight against the Turks, who were attempting to gain Arabia for themselves. In the desert and in the wars he faces he with guilt finds to be attracted to them. In the course of the movie, Lawrence is able with an army supplied by Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) and with the aid of Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn) to reach the city of Aqaba, and seize it, and after that he starts a massive assault campaign against the Turks, that will lead him to conquer Damascus as well. In the process, Lawrence's identity remains a mystery, in the sense that neither his true motives nor a solid identity can be pictured.
Perhaps the greatest of David Lean films, "Lawrence Of Arabia" is an Epic at its most perfectly formulaic. The exotic setting of the desert, the gorgeous cinematography by Freddie Young, the majestically memorable score by Maurice Jarre, and of course the long winded narrative that results nearly in a four hour movie are all contributing elements to this towering cinematic monster. What maybe robs it of being a perfect achievement is its length, surely an inaccessible one for the average audience, who would need a good lot of will to watch the whole thing. Nevertheless, it's an effort that is extremely worth those four hours.
The film won 7 Oscars, including Best Director, Picture, Cinematography, Score, Art Direction, Sound, and Editing. Only by looking at these awards is it really credible to say this film is a technically and artistically relevant movie, that will haunt you for the rest of your days for its beautiful images and its complex but epic storyline.
Unless a Billionaire offers to spend $ 1,000,000,000 to let Paul Thomas
Anderson to make an epic - you will never see another film like this
Elegantly filmed, an excellent Drama and with Cinematography next to none - this is the Epic of Epics.
I saw L of A when it first came out at one of those theaters that had the curved screens and I was seated in the middle of the front row. I thought I was going to die of thirst from being trapped in the middle of the desert for over 3 hours.
A story of the scope of an Idealist and Courageous young man who paid a terrible price to free the Arabs from the Ottoman Turks only to see France and Britain put their interests ahead of all others at the end of World War I.
Widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films in the
history of cinema, 'Laurence of Arabia' is indeed A True Epic! Its an
astonishing motion-picture, that in many ways, gave a new life to
'Laurence of Arabia' Synopsis: Epic rumination on a flamboyant and controversial British military figure and his conflicted loyalties during wartime service.
'Laurence of Arabia' astonished me by its riveting storytelling. Robert Bolt & Michael Wilson's Screenplay salutes T. E. Lawrence's brave & emotional journey. The Screenplay is utterly captivating! David Lean's Direction is outstanding! Cinematography is stunning. Editing is perfect. Art & Costume Design, are superb.
Performance-Wise: Peter O'Toole is Magnificent as T. E. Lawrence. The Godly Actor delivers one of the finest performances of his career. Its a performance, that can be ranked as the best from the 1960's! Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal, is flawless. Omar Sharif as Sheriff Ali, is excellent & stands out. Anthony Quinn as Auda Abu Tayi, is fantastic, as always. Jack Hawkins as General Allenby, does very well. Anthony Quayle as Colonel Harry Brighton, is impressive. I. S. Johar is good.
On the whole, 'Laurence of Arabia' is indeed A Cinematic Masterstorke! A True Epic! Highly Recommended!
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