Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Today's film is Lawrence of Arabia. Wow! What an epic adventure film.  I sit here in awe of the amazing movie I have just watched.

I am most definitely not a historian.  I'm not, really. Especially when it comes to British history and especially not World War I.  I have no idea why the British would be in the Middle East to begin with unless they were planning to take over.  Oh, which they are because they say so towards the end of the film.  But first, the whole point of the film is the Lawrence, the only non-racist British person in the entire area is sent to speak to Prince Feisal (played by Alec Guinness, yeah) and later comes up with this great idea.

Before Lawrence reaches Prince Faisal, his guide is killed by Sherif Ali for drinking from the wrong well.  
His plan is to reach Turkey by way of a treacherous desert that is almost impossible to pass.  Yet, Lawrence is so confident that he encourages his entire troop of Arabs riding camels that yes, indeed, they can make it.  And they do!  Ali is so impressed that he burns Lawrence's stuffy British uniform and gives him a glorious white desert outfit.  It suits him and looks more comfortable, too.

Lawrence is followed around by two orphan boys, and being a genuinely nice guy, lets them even though the other adults don't like them.  Both of them pass away during the course of the film and Lawrence is torn up about it.  Also, he rescues a man in the desert only to have him killed as part of the continuing feuds.  Lawrence knew full well that he was going into war, but I don't think he expected what would really happen.  He was deeply affected by the deaths of these people and didn't even want to return.  

The part that affected me the most is when they scout the city of Daraa.  Lawrence is noted for his white skin and blue eyes, and after lashing out, is beaten.  When Ali finds him, Lawrence points to his skin and tells him that's all that matters.  It's the same way with the British officers being racist towards the Arabs.  Lawrence can never truly fit in because he's white.  Why does this affect me so much?  Because I'm Arab American and have blue eyes.  It's impossible to talk about my family or country without someone stopping me and saying, but you're white, or, your eyes are blue! They say a lot more than that, too.  Excuse me for not fitting into your Fox News definition of an Arab.

 Lawrence realized the consequences of racism and "fitting in" almost 100 years ago, and it really hasn't changed much since.  People will always judge each other by color because that's the first thing we see.

Lawrence changes a lot from the beginning of the film.  He is eager to help out and go on an adventure. While everyone is worried about crossing the desert, he is excited, and even refuses water when offered.  He puts out a match with his fingers for no reason.  Only after witnessing close people die does he take anything seriously.  After his encounter with the Turkish Bey, he is done with everything and wants to leave.  The British officers have to convince him to go to Damascus.

Even though I'm not a historian, I do know that the British were all about expanding their empire.  In 1607, they settled in Virginia, and landed on Plymouth Rock (Mass) in 1620.  So they've been doing this for a very long time.  Almost every inhabitable continent has been settled and conquered by the British.  Some countries gained their independence through revolutionary wars while others gained it through non-violent means.  So I find it a little hard to buy that Lawrence was so naive that he couldn't tell they were planning on taking over Arabia as well.  I mean why would the British even be in the area if they didn't have some interest in it?  And they built an entire canal - in the desert!

Yes, this film is amazing.  Don't even worry about how long it is, it is worth your time.  There's lots of excitement and drama.  One fun fact: despite its length, no women have any speaking roles.  Even so, the men do a fine job.  This white Arab gives it a 9/10.


  1. I consider this a truly great and epic film. I gush all about it in my review, which I won't waste space with repeating here.

    Thanks for sharing your personal take on a scene that, for me, was just one of many in the film that was powerful, but did not specifically stand out.