Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia

History is a specific thing, and if one wants to be remembered by generations, he must personally do great things that can affect the course of history. There are people who act in this way and leave a distinctive mark. A famous British spy Lawrence, whose incredible biography was assumed as a basis for a big picture Lawrence of Arabia (1962) by David Lean, is among these great men (Barbudo, 2014, p. 77). It can be referred to several genres: biographical, war, historical, and drama. The film won seven Oscar awards. The script is based on the book Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence, as well as historical research of biographers. The film discloses the long-term problems and conflicts of the Arab people, and reveals the bitter truth: it was difficult to live in peace for different tribes due to their traditions, customs, rules, and laws. While watching, a viewer is immersed in a world of the Arab people, learns about their manners, realizes the spiritual essence of Arab culture, and becomes a party to all the events.

There is a difference between the concepts of ‘story’ and ‘plot’. The first one explains what the film is about, while the second one explains the sequence of the film’s events. Therefore, the story of Lawrence of Arabia is the life story of a British intelligence officer Lawrence, who during the First World War served in the army in Arabia in active cooperation with the Arab nomads and for this reason received the name ‘Arabian’. The plot of the film includes the following events. Lawrence actively joined the Arabs, he was filled with their spirit and, in fact, led the guerrilla war of the Arabs against the Ottoman Empire (the so-called War in the Desert). At the beginning of the picture, after Lawrence’s death, correspondents interviewed people who knew him. The memories transferred the participants to the military events. Excellent, sustained, diverse and insightful storyline catches a viewer from the beginning to the end of the film.

The most valuable aspect of the film is the opportunity to see the living hero, and that is why many scenes may be regarded as a test for the spirit. The characters in the film are realistic since they are based on biographies of real personalities. The events are based on historical facts mostly. However, some scenes were too fictionalized. The second part of the movie tells a completely fictional story. The timeline is also frequently questionable. Thus, the film can be considered an accurate, but biased due to the fact that it was based on a book, which was written by Lawrence himself.

At the level of form, David Lean methodically and deliberately used the format of 70 mm and made every effort to create a new spectacular realism. He initially refused to resort to tricks and effects and conceived his film so smooth that a viewer might get the impression that there was an impersonal global perspective on Lawrence’s adventures. Actually, shooting lasted for 20 months. The full-scale episodes were filmed in Jordan, Morocco and Spain. Film’s lighting was primarily natural, which contributed to the theme and atmosphere. It gave the impression of wilderness. The music reflects the perfect atmosphere of the film, showing that the world of Arabia was perfect for the hero. He felt true happiness in the boundless desert.

The director was brilliant at combining intimacy, a grand scale, and panoramic views, creating a symbiosis of these notions and an unforgettable sight. The script includes the moments that were insignificant at first glance, and thus, all the pitfalls were eliminated. The picture is not only a massive, but also a very holistic spectacle, which is supported by the epochal music of Maurice Jarre and Fred Gilbert. As Wyatt-Brown (2009) stated, “producers, directors, screenplay writers, historical advisors, actors, artistic designers, cameramen, and others must all pull together as a team” to achieve the desired effects (532).

The battle scenes involve hundreds of soldiers, horses and trains. The scenes include a camel attack, shooting, bloodshed, sand storms and stunning scenery. One more feature that contributes to the realistic perception of the film is clothing. Everything is filmed really live. The film makes a very pleasant impression and remains in the memory. A viewer is bound to feel the enchanting Arabian Desert, looking at which, one can only feel astonished by how such beauty is fatal to an average person. Almost every movement in the movie is directed from left to right. This technique was aimed at emphasizing that it was a journey.

However, the main feature that enhances the historical atmosphere is the characters. Peter O`Toole perfectly embodied the character on the screen. He managed to show the grandeur of the personality with all his pains, doubts and determination. He really did not play that role, but lived it on the screen. His actions and speech are his completely personal experience. It creates a feeling that one is spying on him. Generally, the cast is very good. Each character suits perfectly in the film. The atmosphere is recreated very well. The fact that Lean and his team refused to introduce any female characters is worth noting. Despite this, there is some sensitivity and even strong attempts to create a line of sincere affection.

This large-scale production of the film has become a major event in the history of the genre. Combining a spectacular picture and biographical action adventure, the director also sought to reflect a fascinating and controversial subject of Lawrence’s fate. The film reveals the qualities that really belonged to Lawrence: an irresistible attraction to the desert, the desire to explore the very limits of physical endurance and half masochistic pleasure. Besides, some aspects of his biography that are not very clear, for example, his political activities, are also considered. The film takes the side of the honest Lawrence, who was disillusioned by political calculation. The story of Lawrence gives the opportunity to reflect on the extent, to which an eminent person could control its own destiny and measure the proportion of the failures, disappointments and hardships. Legends are also created by people. People move the world forward and make great things. These are the main points of the picture. The greatness of Lawrence in the society is opposed to his own grief, vices and weaknesses.

The historical message of the film is clear. It addresses the events that happened after the crisis of the Suez Canal and the British Empire’s collapse. The director conveys the message that poor Arabs, who were struggling with each other, were in need of clear and strong leadership and Britain managed to provide it. The director manages to change the viewers’ understanding of history by showing Arabs as hopeless people, and Lawrence, who embodied the power of Britain, as a strong leader, who united the tribes. Lawrence’s actions were transformed into the legend with the help of Lean. Thus, the film changes the views on Britain’s intervention into the Middle East. It presents British officers as defenders, but not as provocateurs of repression and conflicts. This film influenced the society by giving rise to new generation of people, who became “interested both in Lawrence and the Arab world” (Rosen, 2011, p. 129). Besides social impact, the film has a strong personal effect. It underlines individual’s potential and power to change situation. The film emphasizes a need to face an inevitable reality and understand one’s weaknesses.

David Lean set himself a truly daunting task - to shoot a film in its purest form, where the story is told not through dialogues or narration, but through visuals and images. It is safe to state that he succeeded. As a result, the film appeared to be a cinematographic masterpiece. The film became a start in this genre of world cinema. A brilliant work of the director made it an English aristocratic military drama.

Films can be evaluated in the frames of various theories. One of the most known film theories is an auteur theory, which suggests an idea that film director has to be an auteur, i.e., the author of the works. Auteur has distinct authorial vision that is transmitted though the story and represents a particular worldview. However, Lean is inimical to such concept as it presents Lawrence’ vision and grandiosity. Lawrence of Arabia allows the audience to understand for itself the meaning of such notions as ‘war’, ‘British Empire’, and ‘hero’. There is obviously lack of judgments on what has happened in the film. This makes an auteur theory unsuitable in this case. In other words, Lean’s work reflects the truth of man’s life both in its complexity and simplicity without solutions. It invites the audience to do this.

Lawrence of Arabia resembles a film monument, which refers to the life and adventures of British intelligence officer Thomas Edward Lawrence, who worked in Syria, formed the union of Arab tribes against the Turks and became a legend in his time. The greatness of the film is proved not only by seven Oscars, but by the test of time. Being shot more than 50 years ago, the film is still popular. This is a story in which the director combines the biography of the man, large-scale scenes, incredible adventures and flavor of the local culture.

Analysis of a film is essential for deep understanding of its messages, as well as its impact. Analyzing a film, I change the way I usually view movies as I gain new skills, learn to look deeper inside the meaning of the film to understand its message. Films appeal to human mind and emotions. This process reveals films’ impact on the society and human minds. The film analysis provides the reflections and interpretations of my aspiration that help me to form a final opinion about it. Moreover, film analysis is a perfect tool for developing my analytical and critical thinking. A film can become a teaching tool as it promotes the formation of a humanistic orientation of an individual and pro-social motivation. It is important to organize a productive discussion and enhance cognitive activity. My independent work with the content of specially selected art films is one way to acquire the experience of empiricism. These skills change the way, in which I view movies. It forces me to perceive a film critically. Film analysis targets at the detection of specific phenomena, analysis and understanding of cause-and-effect relationships between the events of the film, or the actions of its characters, and the interpretation of the content of the film from the perspective of a theory or a few theories. I can use film theories and criticism to find and interpret various meanings in movies. In particular, formalist approach provides an understanding of form and structure of the film. A genre theory is aimed at analyzing movies in the context of their genres. An auteur theory helps to interpret auteur message.

The study of the film has changed my understanding of how movies are related to society. Cinema art is a powerful tool in the development of education, culture and leisure. It changes human mind and opens people the truth of reality. Films cause critical interventions in social debates. The study of a film enhances my development as a student and a thinker. Work with the content of the film promoted the formation of my professionally important qualities that would be useful for me as a future specialist: it provides me with the ability to observe, empathy, emotional self-regulation, deepening of self-understanding, decentration, unbiased judgment, and the ability to produce and test working hypotheses.