After such great success on A Bridge on the River Kwai, many must have been left in wonder on what exactly David Lean has next in store. I’m sure many couldn’t have thought that he would have surpassed the narrative ambition and scope that was carried in what many considered at the time to be his magnum opus. Five years have gone by and not a release have come out of Lean’s filmography, wondering what exactly he has been up to, rumours and details of the upcoming production of his next project have begun to create a hype around itself, which was thankfully redeemed in its eventual release.
Lawrence of Arabia is without a doubt, one of the most epic pieces of filmmaking that I have ever encountered; a master-class piece that succeeds in many aspects of its production, particularly sight and sound, capturing its authentic locations with such beauty and depth that one cannot help but be greatly awed by simply being upon its presence, the same could be said for the glorious music that accompanies its vast imagery, an inspiring set of tunes that remains with you and becomes immediately identifiable when one urges to reference.
It is a tale of an almost invisible British soldier, T.E. Lawrence, stationed in Cairo, assigned into the Arabian Desert by higher authorities to assess the conditions of the British ally, Prince Faisal, and his war against the modernised Turks. It was in this journey that he becomes further involved in the Arab’s causes, slowly gaining a notable reputation with them and a sense of respect that would bestow him the ranks of a hero. Lawrence’s aim is to aid them in gaining the freedom that Arabia deserves, but along with glory comes tragedy that has shaped him into a different man to what he once was when he entered it. Like many legends, ego and the cracks of ambition strikes them, disintegration of the soul begins and ends as a tale of moral tragedy.
For the most part of the film, I was compelled by this man’s story, seeing him rise above and reaching his destiny is an inspiring one; a man who has found belonging and admiration from a world that once gave him little of it, only to be consumed by it and morally fall is one that carry an immense amount of dramatic weight; but somehow in the scenes that fall in between such majestic achievements and misfortunes carries a palpable sense of dragging pace, and an inability to search in deeper in Lawrence’s psychological and emotional fractures and confusion; the film covers finds these elements in Lawrence’s inner mind and let them linger on in its vast atmosphere, rather than the world itself closing around it and highlighting its larger significance. Of course, there is the possibility that I have most likely missed something in translation but for now I feel intermediately impressed with its depiction of Lawrence’s life.
A landmark in cinema and an artistic high point in Lean’s career, its influence continues to radiate today and positively so in the upcoming generations; I may not be completely in adoration for it, but damn it I cannot help but deeply respect it, especially when a film carries imagery and music as beautiful as this.