Lawence of Arabia (1962)
If your familiarity with Peter O’Toole comes from some of
his unmemorable roles in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s, then Lawrence of Arabia
will be a huge revelation. Here is a charismatic, intelligent and beautiful
actor who can play a character viewed by others – and himself – as a near deity
and pull it off. Here is a young actor who can be placed amidst greats like
Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Claude Rains and Jose Ferrer and
stand above them. Here is an actor who can be the centrepiece of a massive and
spectacular film and seem not the slightest bit out of place.
Decades after its 1962 release, Lawrence of Arabia still looks
awesome and packs a tremendous punch. Based on the actual exploits of Thomas
Edward Lawrence (O’Toole), this is the remarkable story of a bad-mannered young
British army officer who is transformed when he’s sent to the deserts of the
Middle East to convince the poorly understood Bedouin tribes to support the
British cause in the First World War. Lawrence’s success is largely the product
of open-mindedness and understanding – rather than ordering the Arabs around
like a typical Englishman, he instead dons their robes and becomes one of them.
Lawrence becomes a proponent for
freedom from colonial rule. Dressed in brilliant white, the tall blue-eyed Lawrence
stands out as leader of daring assaults that help turn the desert war in favour
of Britain and its allies.
The film chronicles Lawrence’s incredible military success,
the larger than life reputation he gained when savvy propagandists latched onto
him, and his eventual unravelling. This is a complex character – one that director
David Lean and O’Toole have realized with great success. He’s an egomaniac and
publicity-hound, a non-conformist who thinks brilliantly ‘outside the box,’
and – ultimately – a deeply conflicted man.
Lawrence of Arabia is at times painfully ethnocentric, showing
the Arabs from a narrow European perspective that adds only modestly to the
racial stereotype of bloodthirsty Arabs. Considering the date of this production,
this is no surprise; if anything, we might have expected it to be worse. At
least Ali (Sharif) – Lawrence’s closest Arab friend – and Prince Feisel (Guinness)
are relatively well-rounded characters whose presence adds depth to the Arab
portrayal. Ethnocentrism might colour the film’s portrayal of Arabs, but it
doesn’t alter the ominous, spectacular beauty of the desert in the slightest.
of Arabia succeeds hugely when it shows Lawrence on the desert, whether staggering
across a killer stretch on the way to his first big success or leading an attack
during his heyday. The film’s strengths go well beyond Lawrence of Arabia’s
great cast, compelling story and spectacular cinematography. The script – the
product of a lengthy and trying exercise – is spare and efficient. The score
is memorable. The story eventually becomes an effective anti-war piece. Presented
as a true epic, complete with lengthy overture, entr’acte and exit music, this
film is huge because its sense of itself is huge. Huge, spectacular and memorable.
Review from Applloguide.com