September 12, 2005 – “Lawrence of Arabia” is the story of T.E. Lawrence, a member of the British military, and his involvement in the Arab revolt (1916-18). It is an epic tale, and is considered by many to be legendary director David Lean’s masterpiece. It stars Peter O’Toole, in one of his earliest roles, Alec Guiness, of “Star Wars” fame, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, and Claude Rains.
I had the pleasure of viewing this film at The Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas. I had only seen the film once on DVD, so to get to see it on the big screen at such an elegant venue was quite a treat. At a running time of nearly four hours (including intermission), you would think that this film would bog down, but it absolutely flies by. It is an exhilarating experience from start to finish. Peter O’Toole ignites the screen with eyes almost too blue to be believed. Alec Guiness is nearly unrecognizable as an Arab prince, and Omar Sharif’s iconic entrance from the desert is even more breathtaking in 70mm, which the film was shot in instead of the standard 35mm. And so even if it weren’t as great as it is, “Lawrence of Arabia” would be worth the price of admission for its images alone. Shot against the backdrop of the deserts of the Middle East, sand and sun have never seemed so majestic, gritty, and real, all at the same time.
The story itself is about the struggle within T.E. Lawrence as much as it is about the battles he fought alongside the Arabs against the Turks. It’s about his struggles to maintain balances, such as his loyalty to his country and the kinship he develops with the Arabs, and his difficulties trying to keep his morals afloat under the weight of his ever growing fame and the all too real perils of war and life and death in the desert. It is an excellent film with great acting, a wonderful story, that is more about the journey than the destination, and flawless direction by one of the masters. Pictures like “Lawrence of Arabia” are what film is all about. So, do yourself a favor, and if you haven’t seen it, do so, and even if you have, see it again.