Logline: During World War I, a conflicted British military officer forms an army in the Arabian desert to go against the Turks and the Ottoman Empire.
Review: The great film critic Roger Ebert once said that seeing David Lean’s desert epic Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen is something every film lover should do in their lifetime. Lawrence of Arabia is a visual masterpiece. When I watch it, there are many moments that my mouth is ajar in complete awe. However, Lawrence is not just a technical achievement. It is perfect in all the categories upon which we judge movies: direction, acting, editing, music, etc. The soundtrack composed by Maurice Jarre is among my favorite soundtracks of all time.
Lawrence is a film that resonates with you. There are certain moments that are especially memorable, such as the introduction of Sherif Ali Ben Kharish (Omar Sharif) who appears out of a mirage, Lawrence’s first and final look into his dagger, Lawrence’s rescue of a man who has fallen behind in the hot desert sun, a character’s untimely demise in quick sand, and Lawrence and Farraj’s arrival at the Suez Canal and Cairo physically and emotionally exhausted.
The film is notable for its editing. Its transitions were truly innovative for the time. My favorite transition occurs when Lawrence blows out a flame followed by a wide shot of the sunrise in the desert, our introduction into this beautiful and wild landscape. Another memorable transition occurs when Lawrence and Farraj arrive at the Suez Canal and see a man who asks “Who are you?” His voice bleeds over into the following scene. “Who are you?” This question permeates the entire film, which depicts a historical figure who was called “a riddle inside an enigma.” T.E. Lawrence remains a fascinating figure and somewhat of a mystery. I read some excerpts from his autobiographical book, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.” It was interesting to read some of his own reflections of his time in the Middle East. Lawrence seems like a misfit to me who finds an identity in another culture and people only to be betrayed by his own ego and perceptions.
David Lean had a gift for telling epic stories on an intimate level. One gets the sense of being there with Lawrence, on every step of his journey. Among the film’s shooting locations was the Jordan desert, in which the cast and crew were subject to the harsh elements of nature. Lean wanted the real thing, lending the film an unmistakable authenticity. Nearly fifty two years after its release, Lawrence of Arabia is still as fresh as ever: exciting, unsettling, heart wrenching, and magnificent. See it on as big a screen as possible and behold its majesty. It is more than just a film. It is an experience.
Great scene: Sherif Ali Ben Kharish (Omar Sharif) emerges from a mirage in what may be the most memorable introduction of a character in a film.