History is more complicated than you think. It isn’t just some quarrel between different countries that started WWI. It was much more than that, and Lawrence of Arabia showcases this theme perfectly.
I started watching the beginning of this movie, but I was very worried about the pacing and storyline, since it’s nearly four hours long. I tried avoiding it, but I couldn’t keep myself from doing so. I only watched about thirty minutes of it on a plane flight to India, and after that, I couldn’t get rid of it. My mind was obsessed with scenes from the movie, and kept on telling me the same thing:
You have to watch this movie. You HAVE to.
So after a long six months, I watched it all — in one sitting. My mind was blown away. Lawrence of Arabia is a true story of a British soldier named T.E Lawrence, who is assigned to protect Arabia in WWI and help Prince Feisal, the leader of Arabia, defeat the ruling Turkish Empire. But his journey to get freedom for Arabia is a bumpy one. He makes many friends, and many, many enemies.
The thing that sets Lawrence of Arabia apart from other movies is that T.E Lawrence is not a hero that solves ALL the problems for Arabia. He realizes he can only do so much as a human being. For example, after he rallies the Arabs to defeat the Turks, he realizes that the Arab tribes are still fighting amongst each other, and cannot put their differences aside to unite as a common people and form a nation. By the end, Lawrence realizes he is just a mere pawn – used by Arabs for their own purpose (defeat enemy who is stealing their land), and used by the English/French and the Western countries for their own needs (to gain more land and control in the Middle East). This taught me that nothing in history is really solved. Problems creep up over and over again. For example, remember when we had WWI and Germany lost? Sure, the US and other countries got some relaxation for a while, but then Germany got revenge back in WWII! By the end, T.E Lawrence wants to get away from the desert and just live a normal life.
T.E Lawrence also has many different aspects to his personality. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s bad, but he never has one fixed personality! This leads to some really tense moments, because you’re scared about what he’s going to do! Lawrence also stands out from the crowd. He talks in a very strange way. Like in one part of the movie, Lawrence and his guide are traveling to Arabia, and they stop at a well. But just as they’re about to drink, a stranger comes and kills Lawrence’s guide! When the killer comes up to Lawrence and asks for his name, he says: “My name is for my friends. None of my friends is a murderer!”
He also does some pretty crazy things, some resulting in near death. He also has some really memorable lines. One of the greatest lines he says is: “Nothing is written.”
That one line captured the whole spirit of the movie for me. Lawrence is trying to say this when he tries to rescue a lost friend in an empty desert. Everyone is saying he would likely die from the heat, but Lawrence says that there’s still a chance, and he’s going to take it and obviously, he’s successful! The acting is just as perfect as everything else. Peter O Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn – all these actors play out their roles perfectly, and create very memorable characters. For example, Prince Faisal (played by Alec Guinness, aka Obi Won Kenobi) is very wise and kind as the Arab prince, but Auda Abu Tayi (a tribal Arab leader played by Anthony Quinn) is very quick-tempered and rough.
The music is downright amazing. After I heard it, I started going on YouTube and playing the soundtrack over and over again. It truly fits the theme. The final thing I love is how this film captures history. Some of the battles and meetings are staged in a unique way, making this war with the Turks truly different than others (that’s also another reason this film is so good!). This is because this war is not just two different sides fighting each other. It showcases the stand-off between different tribes and countries, and some are fighting for different reasons than others!
The imagery is awesome, like when Lawrence is shown on his camel traveling through the desert. The camera captures the shape and color of the mountains and sand and paints the whole scene in a beautiful sunny light.
This is also one of the only movies I’ve watched that I seem to have no problems with! No wonder it won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture in 1962. I’m sure I can see it fifty times and I would still not be bored with it.
Lawrence of Arabia completely surprised me. It truly captures the spirit of a simple, smart man that changed history, and trust me, he is more interesting than any superhero! He is the kind of protagonist I’ve always wanted in a movie.