LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)

by williamldennis

Gorgeous. Long. Lots of make up.

The epic required 3 different train rides to finish but once you get the hang of the pacing it’s not boring. It feels a bit like you’re watching several episodes of a TV show back to back.

The visuals and scale of the production are impressive even by today’s standards. The compositions are consistently breathtaking and colorful – at times looking like impressionistic paintings more than stills of a movie. Stunning and aspirational.

The scale of the effects and shots is similarly stunning. Hundreds of men on horseback racing across the desert towards a train that’s been blown off its tracks. All along the backdrop of amazing Jordanian desert. The ambition of both the story and the production for the time period are impressive.

Without having looked at the budget I’d imagine it’s one of the most expensive for it’s time.

The make up on Peter O’Toole and others was often distracting – perhaps the 1080p was to blame but also that eye liner just seemed a bit much.

The ideas explored justified the scale of the production – global politics, global agendas, man’s thirst for blood, man’s loss of innocence, the media’s role in building heroes and shaping the narrative around war, and the lust for something noble and greater for yourself. Lawrence corrupts along the way to his worthy goal of giving the Arab’s their own nation and the goal itself crumbles under its own ambition.

It seems a bit racist put against the backdrop of today, with the white man leading the brown man to their revolution – the offensive bit that without him they would be left in the desert to their own arguments (which is how it essentially concludes).

Peter O’Toole’s performance was captivating and perhaps a bit much, but he masterfully moves from aloof and carefree to tortured and jaded while remaining mysterious and entertaining along the way.

The best movies seem to explore the epic emotional journey of a man or woman against the backdrop of an equally epic external journey. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA does just that and watching the impact of his external success on his internal psyche is equal parts wonderful and traffic.

We learn that his passion and vigor and aggression, while leading him to conquer, do not give him the full skill set of a leader, which is made evidently clear by his lack of care for the Turkish prisoners of war. He has the passion and the intent but not the follow through. Tragic but an honest message – so many who we see as great and do great things are really missing key parts of their humanity.

An impressive epic in every sense of the word. While I’m not likely to rewatch given its length, the beauty of the composition already makes me miss the desert.

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