LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

 

This is one of my all time favorite action films.  It is based on the real life exploits of a British soldier during World War I in Arabia.  It won 7 Academy Awards in 1962 including Best Picture.

 

The movie starts out at the end with T.E. Lawrence dying in a motorcycle accident in the English countryside and with various parties coming to his funeral.  It then quickly takes you to Cairo, Egypt where the young Lawrence is a maladjusted lieutenant unhappy with his current assignment coloring maps.  Due to his knowledge of the Arab culture and history, he is given an assignment to go out into the desert and find out more about the Arabs in an effort to see how they might more effectively assist English in the war effort.

 

The film has a wonderful cast led by Peter O’Toole as Lawrence.  Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal, Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali, Anthony Quinn as Auda Abu Tayi, Jack Hawkins as General Allenby, Claude Rains as Mr. Dryden, and Arthur Kennedy as a newspaper man following the career of Lawrence (Kennedy played a similar role in the movie Elmer Gantry), and Jose Ferrer as the Turkish Ruler. 

 

By the end of his brief career in the desert wars Lawrence has been promoted to Colonel and has been thoroughly disillusion because he unsuccessfully tries to help the Arab people gain independence.

 

The movie runs 216 minutes and has some very spectacular desert scenes.  David Lean Directed.

 

When you watch it you should keep its many themes in mind as it is rich in lessons.

 

  1. At the beginning of the film Lawrence does a match “trick” where he lets a match burned down while holding it in his fingers.  Another solider tries it, burns himself, and asks Lawrence what the trick is.  He is told that there is no trick.  You just have to learn not to mind the pain.  His strength is clearly stated early on so that you are more aware of how he is able to do the almost impossible and win battles.
  2. You see throughout the film the Europeans are cheating Arabia out of their rights and freedoms.  This is very important given the current politics in this region.  You can only understand the region by understand the long history of how these people have been manipulated by Western powers, including the United States.
  3. You find out one of the most important lessons that you need to know about not only this part of the world but about much of the world---that long standing tribal animosities and various forms of racism tend to undermine efforts by outsiders to develop certain countries into democracies before they have resolved their internal animosities.  This continues to cause problems all over the world, not just in Arabia.  We see the same problems plaguing Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe.
  4. You see how war can bring out great courage and at the same time bring out the worst in people including blood lust.
  5. You see what Lord Acton warned us about long ago, that: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
  6. And at the end you are left wondering just what motivated this fascinating person.  Yes, Lawrence was motivated by a deep and profound love of Arabia; but what else pushed him along?  Think about this and see what you come up with.  For example, was he a thrill seeker?  Was that the type of brain that he had and is that a partial explanation of his death?  What were his motivations regarding the two young Arab boys that served him?  Lots of interesting questions remain as to just what made this famous and fascinating legend tick.