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Lawrence of Arabia
Year:
1962
Country:
UK
Genre:
Drama, Adventure, Biography, History, War
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
David Lean
Peter O'Toole as T.E. Lawrence
Alec Guinness as Prince Feisal
Anthony Quinn as Auda abu Tayi
Jack Hawkins as General Lord Edmund Allenby
Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali
José Ferrer as Turkish Bey
Anthony Quayle as Colonel Brighton
Claude Rains as Mr. Dryden
Arthur Kennedy as Jackson Bentley
Donald Wolfit as General Sir Archibald Murray
I.S. Johar as Gasim
Gamil Ratib as Majid
Michel Ray as Farraj
John Dimech as Daud
Storyline: An inordinately complex man who has been labeled everything from hero, to charlatan, to sadist, Thomas Edward Lawrence blazed his way to glory in the Arabian desert, then sought anonymity as a common soldier under an assumed name. The story opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident in Dorset at the age of 46, then flashbacks to recount his adventures: as a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916, he is given leave to investigate the progress of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. In the desert, he organizes a guerrilla army and--for two years--leads the Arabs in harassing the Turks with desert raids, train-wrecking and camel attacks. Eventually, he leads his army northward and helps a British General destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire.
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Reviews
Brilliant touches
As well as the epic sweep of this movie, there are the enduring moments, images and transitions that remain in the memory and raise this film to the level of greatness. I mention just four that sear this film onto my consciousness: the extinguishing of the smouldering match followed by the rising desert sun (a brilliant metaphor for Lawrence, a smouldering wick caught up in his own hell fire will he be snuffed out?), the ringing of the alarm bell at Aquaba, a superimposed sound transition to the attack scene, as the camera closes in on Lawrence's agonised features following the execution that he had to carry out before the attack and to make sure it happened (again an amazing metaphor as the bell rings out like it is announcing coming doom for Lawrence as he has much more blood to spill in the coming days) And then the ship that suddenly appears on the Suez canal but as if it is sailing across the desert (a nod to the idea of camels perhaps, I don't understand if it is meant to be a metaphor but it is simply a magnificent image). Then, at the very end there is the juxtaposition of the Arab camel riders and the truck-borne Tommies singing their contrasting songs: different songs, different technologies, contrasting, conflicting cultures with Lawrence exiting history still not knowing to which culture his allegiance lies - as the driver comforts him with the thought that he is going "home" But is he really going home?

The pivotal moment of the film follows shortly after the Ship image, when a motorcyclist appears on the far bank of the canal and cries out "Who are you?" and the camera closes up on Lawrence's exhausted, wondering face. This is the question that encapsulates the whole film, who exactly is Lawrence? and it is reprised at various points: The scene outside St Paul's, Faisal's question "is he a desert loving Englishman?", the MOs failure to see Lawrence is not a "filthy" Arab, The journalists treatment of him, Lawrence dressing like an Arab prince, Preston calling him a brilliant soldier etc etc etc, All the way through, it is a brilliant, intelligent screenplay. The motorcyclist was actually David Lean, putting his own signature on a magnificent canvas....

There is one segment that encapsulates the touch of David Lean's direction of actors, the scene with Jose Ferrer as the Turkish Bey. Ferrer described his small part as the best acting he'd ever done while O'Toole said he learned more from Ferrer in that scene than all his years at drama school. But watch the acting of the uncredited extras, soldiers and flotsam from Deraa. With no dialogue they capture the degradation, hopelessness, (in the case of the townsmen) and the callousness and resignation (in the case of the soldiers) of the "cattle" who surround the Bey magnificently. Who are these unsung heroes? Two are jobbing Spanish actors but the rest are also excellent, especially the man third in line with the fez and the young soldier. They are brilliant and add so much to the intensity of this scene...
2016-04-10
Exotic and grand, for reasons I can't fully explain
Recently I was told I have attention deficit disorder, which admittedly, wasn't too much of a shocker. Over the past few years I've found more joy in short films than the longer ones; hence, why I loved the Canadian show ZeD since it featured lots of short films. I also watch some TV shows where episodes are only 20-22 minutes long. I enjoyed The Dark Knight (2008) but thought it was a bit too long- two hours and twenty minutes. Then there's Lawrence of Arabia (1962)- almost four hours long! Yet the movie is good enough that I actually don't resent it for its length. I don't think I'd cut anything from it. I'm not sure if I've seen it in one sitting, but it's actually compelling viewing.

The film is set in World War I with the British hoping to undermine one of its enemies, the Ottoman Empire (here mostly called Turkey), by assisting the Arab revolt against it. The British officer TE Lawrence (played by Peter O'Toole) particularly becomes committed to giving the Arabs their freedom- even from his own people, the British. He leads Arab warriors to some victories over the Turks.

Lawrence of Arabia won the Oscar for Best Picture and the American Film Institute twice ranked it as one of the top ten best American films ever, although Lawrence of Arabia is typically considered to be a British movie. Still, it is deserving of the praise it gets. Maybe for cinematography, but I've heard that's really most impressive on the big screen. I've only seen it on my small TV and laptop, so I can't say that's really why I enjoyed the movie, although I did find the setting exotic. I'm not totally sure what the message of the movie was, and sometimes I found some of the scenes difficult to understand. But I am particularly interested in history, politics and war, and I guess that probably explains a lot of the film's appeal. Lawrence of Arabia captures the subject of achieving greatness. This includes a single man becoming great, with Lawrence becoming a hero to the Arabs and an inspiring figure to the British and Americans (through media attention), and with Prince Feisal becoming a king. O'Toole plays Lawrence in an interesting way, with emotion and conviction. Feisal, an Arab, is played by Alec Guinness, who is decidedly not Arabic- but he plays the part well, giving the character a feeling of power and wisdom. It also includes the story of how a people became great- Lawrence calls the Arabs a "little people" at the start of the movie, but they're not by the end. Perhaps it can be said Lawrence achieves greatness by finding his place in the world, among the Arabs, showing one can find one's place in the world anywhere. But he does leave Arabia at the end of the movie. Maybe he was one of those unfortunate people who couldn't find his place anywhere. This movie, however, has a definite place in cinematic history.
2009-06-29
A film that literally excites the senses...
David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" is one of the few films that legitimately deserves to be called great… It appears on virtually all "ten best" lists and reveals deeper layers of meaning with repeated viewings…

Lean, a man devoted to the art, gives "Lawrence of Arabia" its spectacular values... He unifies the sand and the sun to flame out the silver screen... Maurice Jarre's terrific music escorts the appearance and disappearance of the sun below the horizon in the sleepy desert...

"Lawrence of Arabia" is a prodigious labor, a masterful mixture of fact and artistry, a masterpiece of intimate moment and spectacular largesse, a film that literally excites the senses... In a visual sense, Lean combines a sure sense of place with an approach to the action that he borrows from an unlikely source—John Ford… Lean turns his vast desert canvas into another Monument Valley, and when his Bedouins ride across it, they are not far removed from Ford's cavalry… In many of the early scenes, the stately gait of the camel's walk gives the film a slower pace, and this is precisely what Lean is trying to achieve… Lean even manages to surpass Ford with his understanding of the relationship between his characters and the landscape; how the desert changes those who go into it…

The film is the story of a solitary adventurer who always knew he was different, but in Arabia he discovers that his proportions are heroic... Perhaps this is the secret of Lawrence of the legends — that at the bottom of all the violent action is a protagonist about whom one cares... A puzzling personality whom one glimpses but never fully understands... Throuhout the picture one has a sense of a man discovering his own unique dimensions...

Lawrence's mission, largely his own creation, is to unite the feuding Bedouin tribes under the leadership of Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness), and to keep the British politicians, as personified by Mr. Dryden (Claude Rains), from putting the Arabs under their colonial thumb after World War I is over… It is accomplished through a semi-episodic series of battles and raids where Lawrence is sometimes accompanied by Ali (Omar Sharif) and Sheik Auda (Anthony Quinn), and equally difficult bureaucratic struggles he faces with Gen. Allenby (Jack Hawkins).

All the conventional elements of the genre are at peaks of excellence here: The stretch desert with its white golden sands; peril, anywhere and everywhere; danger–for Lawrence of Arabia is a film about guerrilla warfare; prowess–Lawrence crosses Sinai on foot; physical torture–Lawrence in the hands of the Turkish bey; impossible mission– Lawrence takes the seaport of Jordan from behind; ruthlessness–Lawrence shouting 'take no prisoners' leading his men to put to death a Turkish column...

Every component is here, everything one needs for a great adventure film, many spectacular sequences, each of them so perfect: Lean cuts to the sun again and again, turning it into a character; the scene in Feisal's tent when Lawrence first talks with the king; Lawrence striding on top of a captured train, parading before rows of cheering Arabs; the scene between Lawrence and Ferrer illuminating Lawrence's strange perversity, a mixture of masochism and repressed homosexuality; the scene when a Beduin prince appears on his camel, an exceedingly long take in which a strange figure is first resolved out of waves of heat and then, as he approaches, becomes a frightening threat to Lawrence's escort at the desert well...

The photography, the script and the acting are so superb that "Lawrence of Arabia" becomes a lavish epic winner of 7 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Directing, Color, Cinematography, Sound, Muscial Score and Film Editing...
1999-11-29
arey bhiya lawrence ...... cut it out !
Lawrence of Arabia......an epic and a saga movie of a man in Arabia and those lot of things he does between Arabs and European powers. A huge cinema of a long duration as a memoir told in about 228 minutes (12 minutes less then 4 hours).

Well well well, so far so good.....but let me 'inquire' whats all this fuss about. I mean why was this long and big movie created, won Oscar, and is rated very high? I found this film as a really monotonous, although not complete boring account, plain, colorless, eventfully eventless, dramatically hopeless, forlorn, woebegone, abject-ed journey, despairing account of events that were so so so artificial that such kind of artificiality may be considered as a new kind of film style by movie geeks (scholars).

I will compare it with the title of the film I just found "Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bridge of the Return of the Revenge of the Terror of the Attack of the Evil, Mutant, Alien, Flesh Eating, Hellbound, Zombified Living Dead Part 2".
2014-04-20
Fascinating!
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 while.

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"
2014-01-04
A true work of art
This film is the best film ever to grace the motion picture screen. It is bar none, a cinematic masterpiece, yet to be rivaled and far ahead of it's time and yet, contemporary and historical. Nothing compares in my mind. Seeing this film is escaping through vicarious interpretation of history on a great adventure through a daring metaphor comparing the life of one man to the clash of civilization where it is said to have originated. This is an interesting contrast to the mundane, civilized life of the English countryside where our protagonist and lead character, Mr. Lawrence meets his untimely demise, not for lack of boredom on a motorized conveyance after returning home from traversing the vast desert on a camel, risking life and limb, in a daring raid.
2017-04-05
An epic journey through the desert
This movie is based on the life of T.E. Lawrence.It shows us his Arabian adventure on a camel in the desert.It goes through his battles.Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is David Lean's long classic.It won seven Oscars, including Best Director and Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre).Peter O'Toole is amazing as Lawrence.He would have earned an Oscar from his performance, but he only got a nomination.It's a real shame that to this day the man has not won one single Oscar, only an Academy Honorary Award in 2003.And he has been nominated eight times! The rest of the cast is superb as well.Alec Guinness plays Prince Feisal.Anthony Quinn portrays Auda Abu Tayi.Omar Sharif portrays Sheriff Ali.José Ferrer is Turkish Bey.Claude Reins gives the portrayal of Mr. Dryden.Arthur Kennedy plays Jackson Bentley.I.S. Johar plays Gasim.Farraj and Daud are played by Michel Ray and John Dimech.There are many memorable scenes in the movie, one being where Lawrence executes Gasim.And Daud getting killed to a quicksand.Or Lawrence's torture scene.Lawrence of Arabia is a classic not to be missed.
2011-08-21
Am I one of the few who didn't like it?
Just saw this for the first time. Although the movie has a great cast, there is very little in the way of drama to keep you interested for 230 minutes. It's not a very good biography in that I didn't come away from the film knowing any more about Lawrence than I did when I sat down to watch. The movie is watchable just for the cinematography, but if you're looking for a good story, forget it.
2002-01-08
O'Toole Is Lawrence
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.
2013-12-21
Agony and Ecstasy
As others have commented, the visual aspect of Lawrence is indeed almost overwhelming, but another aspect stands out too. The love theme. As was pointed out, Lawrence is a film with no women. Despite that it is the love tension which feeds the whole plot from beginning to end. That Lawrence himself was homosexual, is alluded to throughout the film, but the deeper love for the land and the people, is the one that carries him mercilessly onwards. The tragedy is that Lawrence is continually rejected, both physically and ultimately spiritually. The film is one of a few which manages to show the reality of love in both its pain and it's glory.
1999-01-18
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