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I first saw this film on its release, aged 13, and it forms an
important part of my transition towards adulthood. I am pleased to see
that it consistently rates 20something in the IMDb listings, even from
others (whom I envy, for I can't see it with fresh eyes) who are seeing
it for the first time. Pleasing too is that some of those are also
teenagers, for whom a forty-three year old film must itself seem part
of the past. As for the minority who are bored by intentionally slow
pacing (and for whom punctuation, paragraphing and grammar are a lost
art), I suggest they learn a little about the history of film-making
(from which it may become apparent that much of today's fast editing
techniques were invented in the 1920s: try Eisenstein's October, for
From the universally admired cinematography of Freddie Young, the long
shot of Omar Sharif's floating mirage entry, the pre-CGI battles and
pan-up scene changes, to O'Toole's florid but career-defining
performance and the (then) novel time-shift narrative, this film set
standards not matched even by Lean himself, and, as many reviewers have
commented, financially and practically unlikely to be attempted today.
I too have rarely seen such clarity of image outside of Imax, and in my
view the script by Robert Bolt (and I now have learnt, an uncredited
Michael Wilson) is the finest in cinema. Maurice Jarre's music and some
of the acting style now seem a little excessive, but repeated viewing
(around 35 times in my case) does not diminish the impact and quality,
and the restoration and now DVD release still, after all these years,
approaches the effect of that first 1962 viewing.
It is rare that repeated watching of a film (as opposed to a live
performance) does this, and the reasons go beyond the photography,
performances and editing. In my opinion, it is because the
characterisation and storytelling encourage an appreciation of the
ambiguity and inconsistency behind our motives and behaviour, and, in a
wartime scenario, in the contrast between political expedience and
personal morality. For a 13-year old, this opened a window into the
adult world, and it explains why the story has resonance far beyond its
setting. The film doesn't require an understanding of middle-east
politics (though it does have some very current relevance), but it does
require an ability to look, listen and understand. The fact that so
many people rate it so highly says everything about its wider impact.
When The Matrix and even Lord of the Rings have slipped out of the
ratings (and the adolescents who inhabit these pages have grown up), I
believe this film will still be in the 20s or 30s, perhaps enabling
young people to once again see the world through adult eyes.
Like Ali, I fear Lawrence. I fear the power of art to change us, to
challenge our preconceptions. Every time I see this film I learn a
little more, discover something new. When I was 13 I didn't understand
much, but this film helped me to see that I wanted more, knew more,
than my peers. I can't rate it more highly than that.
Tags for Lawrence Of Arabia Full Movie
, Anthony Quinn
, Jack Hawkins
, Peter O'Toole
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