LAWRENCE OF ARABIA [1962] review

August 28, 2011 · Print This Article

Knowing that the running time of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA approached four hours, it took me quite sometime to find the right Sunday to watch it on, over three years in fact.  Now, one of the most glaring holes in my movie watching resume, has been filled properly.

I have written before that for a movie to be truly unforgettable, to become legend, it must have a score that within one note of hearing it will identify the movie.  LAWRENCE certainly has that and uses it throughout the movie to connect the vast landscape, altering the melody to suit the situation from sweeping to intimate.

The movie is oddly mesmerizing in that it is a highly contemplative film, but the viewer is hardly aware of what amount of time is passing.  How do you make a movie nearly four hours long?  By not immediately cutting to the place a character said they are going next, but instead by showing how grueling that journey is, especially in the desert.  The long, early desert scenes establish the world Lawrence, a British lieutenant, comes to feel a kinship with.  When asked why he likes the desert so much, he simply replies, “because it’s clean.”

One commanding officer of Lawrence’s rightly calls him a man of destiny.  Lawrence acts with a confidence and determinism reflecting an extremely strong inner faith in his own ability.  This acts like a magnet to other people further powered by his miraculous successes in military strategy.

There is an intermission, which I think is awesome.  I would really like to see more 3.5+ hour movies which provide an intermission.

LAWRENCE is really unlike any other movie I have scene, and certainly any from the past few decades.  In a sense it is like watching live history or something.

After the intermission the tone of the movie, like the character of Lawrence, is much different.  The charmed journey of Lawrence passing through the desert to the sea in the first half where he was seemingly infallible and extraordinarily lucky, was exchanged for tragic setbacks both large and small.  Even the aforementioned charmed journey had one unforgettable scene involving a man left behind in the desert.

Toward the end when the battles are over politics sets in and Lawrence is no longer in his element, nor do the people that willingly followed him have the stomach for it.  Lawrence’s fate is the opening scene of the movie, which was not repeated at the end, but cleverly alluded to.  I have never seen a movie not repeat the opening flashback scene like that.  No hand feeding the audience by director David Lean.

LAWRENCE is a movie to see only once, which is why I waited so long for just the right time.

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