Jackson Bentley: What is it, Major Lawrence, that attracts you personally to the desert? T.E. Lawrence: It's clean.
Lawrence Of Arabia is a historical epic film directed by David Lean about British officer T.E. Lawrence's activities leading the Arab revolt against the Turks during World War One. Producer Sam Spiegel bought the rights to Lawrence's own account of his experiences in the Middle East, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom for Lean to direct. Previously Lean had directed the Spiegel-produced The Bridge on the River Kwai to great success. Lawrence took two years to make, in locations like Jordan, Morocco and Spain. It won a ton of awards when finally released in 1962 including the Best Picture Oscar, and remains highly-regarded by most critics decades later. The movie is intelligently written and well-acted, although some critics have issues with the historical accuracy. On a visual note, it contains some absolutely beautiful desert scenery, and Peter O'Toole is terribly pretty in the title role.The film was twice subjected to major cuts, being reduced from an initial 222 minute length to as short as 187 minutes by the early '70s. Much of the missing footage was misplaced by Columbia Pictures until the 1989 restoration (216 minutes). Somewhat subverted in that David Lean approved of the first round of cuts.In 2012, the film was re-released in limited quantities both to celebrate its 50th anniversary and to show off a new screen technology known as Ultra-High Definition resolution.
Then there's Ali talking about his feelings. "If I fear him, who love him, how must he fear himself who hates himself?"
David Lean confirmed this: "Yes. Of course it is. Throughout. Lawrence was very, if not entirely, homosexual. We thought we were being very daring at the time: Lawrence and Omar, Lawrence and the Arab boys."
"I carry twenty-three great wounds all got in battle. Seventy-five I have killed with my own hands in battle. I scatter, I burn my enemy's tents. I take away their flocks and herds. The Turks pay me a golden treasure, yet *I* am poor. Because I am a river to my people!"
Badass Bookworm: Lawrence, whose knowledge of the area makes him more effective at his job than his comrades.
"'I cannot fiddle, but I can make a great state from a little city.' - Thermistocles"
When Lawrence is leaving at night, taking 50 men with him to conquer Aqaba :
Faisal: And where are you going, lieutenant, with 50 of my men ?
Lawrence: To work your miracle.
Faisal: Blasphemy is a bad beginning for such a journey.
After taking Aqaba, Lawrence is confident that he can cross the Sinai desert safely and inform his superiors about the siege. He compares himself to Moses, which offends Auda.
Auda: In ten days you will cross Sinai?
Lawrence: Why not? Moses did.
Auda: Moses was a prophet and beloved of God!
Blood Knight: Lawrence's expressed aversion to violence is in fact an effort to suppress this part of his personality. At a meeting with Allenby Lawrence tells about having to execute a murderer in his army. Allenby expresses sympathy, but Lawrence explains the real problem.
"I enjoyed it."
Break the Cutie: The movie is one long string of personal tragedies for Lawrence, as he watches his friends die and does various things that he does not enjoy. And more tragically still, things he wishes he didn't enjoy.
Brick Joke: "You, sir! I'd like to shake your hand!"
Composite Character: Sherif Ali (Ali ibn el-Kharish) was clearly based on Ali ibn el Hussein, the brother of Faisal, but was stripped of his royal identity and made a generic tribal leader.
Many of the British officers are also composite characters, as well as Dryden.
Conflicting Loyalty: Lawrence is caught between loyalty to his country and the Arab Revolt. In fact he talked much of this in Real Life, though when you think of it, it is inevitable in any officer seconded to an allied force. But in any case it is considerably dramatized here.
Cool Horse: Auda Abu Tayi's favorite part of the Plunder, when they seize a Turkish train and he comes away with a handsome white horse.
Creator Cameo: David Lean voices the motorcyclist who asks Lawrence "Who are you?" at the Suez Canal. Robert Bolt plays one of the officers (smoking a pipe) watching Lawrence's first conference with Allenby.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Lawrence is viewed to be eccentric and insubordinate in Cairo, so much that the commanding general openly treats him with contempt. All that changes when he gets to Arabia.
Downer Ending: Even though Lawrence succeeded in reaching and taking Damascus with his Arab calvary, Lawrence is unsuccessful in uniting the Arab tribes as a united people, and heads home, depressed and unable to feel joy again. Oh, and he dies years later in a motorcycle crash (as shown in the beginning).
Bittersweet Ending: However, on the bright side, Prince Faisal managed to negotiate with Britain, establishing the Arab people as a valid group of people that have power and influence in the Middle East.
Dramatization: It's based on history, but they took some liberties for dramatic effect.
Hollywood History: A very, VERY reliable source for it. For one, the British general staff and Lawrence were on overwhelmingly good terms save for a few exceptions. Lawrence was, however, quite contemptuous of the military rank-and-file and their strategic objectives (he saw it as his aim to subvert the Sykes-Picot agreement which wanted to divvy up Syria instead of creating an Arab state). Secondly, the taking of Aqaba was not a glorious cavalry charge into the town but a prolonged melee for a pillbox a few miles outside of town. Thirdly, the relations with the Saudi-dominated Najd are almost completely ignored when in fact they were a crucial part of diplomacy Lawrence was involved in. And this is before we get into the issue of who exactly liberated Damascus (Western Allies or Arab rebels), which is STILL a matter of pride that is fiercely contested to this day. The screenwriter, Robert Bolt, based the movie off of Lawrence's memoirs because there were too many conflicting sources; the accuracy of his writings has been brought under serious scrutiny by recent historians.
Similar to what Hollywood widespread most of the time, the Capitaine Rosario Pisani and other GaulsWithGrenades are not even mentioned, such as the adjudant Lamotte, who still rode the 1000 km to Aqaba with Lawrence. To be fair, Pisani wrote only 60 pages about his mission, mostly still classified, compared to the 800 public pages of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and the Foil of most French soldiers compared to the Arabs was not as large as the one with Lawrence, since they mostly grew up and learnt to fight in Maghreb with Arabs and against Arabs.
German military advisers and troops, like Otto Liman Von Sanders, are also not mentioned, but it was more difficult to show them, given the small amount of screen time that the Turks already get.
Iconic Outfit: Lawrence's lovely white Arab clothes are the outfit for any hero crossing the desert. Granted, that's the practical outfit for crossing the desert, but still.
Dryden:You give them artillery and you've made them independent. Allenby:Then I can't give them artillery, can I? Dryden:For you to say, sir. Allenby:No, it's not. I've got orders to obey, thank God. Not like that poor devil. He's riding the whirlwind. Dryden:Let's hope we're not.
Large Ham: Lawrence was Peter O'Toole's first starring role, and he'd mostly done stage work up until then. As a result, his performance was a little...outsized. Subverted by the fact that Lawrence, as portrayed in the film, pretty much exemplified this trope as well.
The stage doesn't get any bigger than a vast desert.
Anthony Quinn is hammy as Auda. He roars around like a big child, and at one point he walks across a table to yell at someone. And Jose Ferrer shows up for a whole scene to be a big, creepy, creepy ham.
Also, so a lesser extent, Lawrence and Daud/Farraj.
Magnetic Hero: Lawrence. Ali and Auda both are both good examples, as well.
Match Cut: A particularly famous (and literal) one, when Lawrence blows out a match, cutting to the sun rising over the Arabian desert.
Meaningful Echo: Early in the film, Lawrence's Bedouin guide is shot by a man from another tribe (Sherif Ali), for drinking from his well. Angry, Lawrence yells at his retrieving back:
"So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people; greedy, barbarous and cruel, as you are."
Later in the second half of the film, Lawrence's men slaughter a unit of Turks in revenge-fuelled lust (in which Lawrence himself snaps and kills at least two dozen Turks himself). Later, when Mr. Bentley arrives at the scene, stunned, Sherif Ali essentially parrots what Lawrence had said to him before:
"Does it surprise you, Mr Bentley? Surely, you know the Arabs are a barbarous people. Barbarous and cruel. Who but they! Who but they!"
"Nothing is written!" and several variants are repeated throughout the film.
"Don't you know I can only be killed with a golden bullet?"
Mercy Kill: The Arabs kill most of their wounded so the Turks don't get them.
Mighty Whitey: Subverted heavily, exemplifying what's wrong with this trope. At first it's played straight; Lawrence impresses the Arabs and is made one of their leaders. However it gradually becomes apparent that Lawrence doesn't really understand their culture, their motivations, or their problems, and when he tries to turn against his own side to help them, it turns out that A: The natives don't necessarily even want your "help." And B: Shockingly, an advanced and determined culture holds all the cards when going up against a divided and more primitive culture. Lawrence's attempts to play this trope straight are summed up in one scene:
Colonel Brighton: They think he's a kind of prophet.
General Allenby: They do, or he does?
Mooks: Ottoman Turkish soldiers. They drop like flies in just about every altercation.
Mr. Fanservice: Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole (somewhat averted by the latter's aversion to sex).
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Lawrence takes his pubescent assistants into the desert with him on his way to Cairo to announce his victory at Aqaba, brushing off any objections. On the way, one of them drowns in quicksand.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jackson Bentley is an obvious stand-in for Lowell Thomas, the American journalist who made Lawrence famous. Given that Thomas was still alive at the time (and the problems they ran into with the families of others depicted in the film), the name change was legally expedient.
No One Gets Left Behind: Lawrence going after one of his men stranded in desert. Managing to save him. Inverted possibly by being forced to execute him.
Subverted in another instance. Lawrence's servant has to be given a Mercy Kill because it is impossible not to leave him behind.
No Woman's Land: It is a World War One movie, but still - no women are shown on screen, except for a handful of veiled extras here and there, and some nurses. There are no women with speaking roles. (Ululating doesn't count.)
Obfuscating Stupidity: Lawrence seems to play up his eccentricity in Cairo, to the point where the other officers have no awareness of his expertise.
Quicksand Sucks: quicksand shows up in the desert, swallowing a servant in moments. Easy to write off as Artistic License - Geology, but its mentioned in the folklore of many desert cultures, and its recently been discovered that may be for good reason: Dry quicksand exists and behaves more like hollywood quicksand than the liquid variety.note The other wiki has an article, but basically, it seems to be caused by the normally tightly packed structure of sand being slightly looser than normal- perhaps by a drift of powder sand being blown lightly into the gap between several dune ridges. This creates a large, precariously stacked pile of sand grains and trapped air that otherwise looks like completely normal sand. Cue a caravan. In one experiment a weighted ping pong ball sank into dry quicksand to a depth of several inches almost immediately,accompanied by a "straight jet of sand [shooting] violently into the air after about 100 milliseconds". Its also worth mentioning that the wet form of quicksand forms in deserts, too. note It takes a large, long-lived, reliable spring to form anything vaguely resembling a greenery-circled open pool- a weak or unreliable spring may simply form a small patch of quicksand when conditions are right.
Rape as Drama: Lawrence and the Turkish Bey. More like a beating/"implied rape as drama", but still disturbing.
The Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized: The Arab National Council that forms after the occupation of Damascus exemplifies this trope. The tribesmen who fought alongside Lawrence have no experience with technology, urban administration, or modern politics, and soon found themselves unable to oversee a modern city. For example, the city's damaged electrical generators could not be repaired because the tribesmen had no engineers. Also, the Damascus hospital was full of dead and dying Turks with no running water, as the Arabs had no doctors and insufficient technological training to restore the city's water pumps. To make matters worse, the tribal chieftains leading the council quickly descended into childish inflighting. The situation improved only when the English took over administration of the city.
Take a Third Option: A member of a rival clan has a grudge against Gazim, and threatens war if he's not allowed to kill him, while Gazim's own clan threatens war if he does. Lawrence then determines that the rival clan member will be satisfied with Gazim's death even if he's not the one to do it, and does the deed himself, not being affiliated with any clan and thus incurring no reprisals.
Thou Shalt Not Kill: Although he would do it when he had no choice, Lawrence was known for being highly averse to bloodshed ("I've never seen a man killed with a sword before." "Why don't you take a picture?" // "Prisoners, sir, we took them prisoners, the entire garrison. No, that's not true. We killed some; too many, really, I'll manage it better next time."). That is, until Daraa; he returns a "changed man", despite Sherif Ali's claims to the contrary.
Thousand-Yard Stare: When Lawrence gets out of the Sun's Anvil (for the second time in a day), he's too busy blankly staring ahead like a seated corpse to notice people offering him water. And that's BEFORE the traumas start piling up.
Warrior Poet: Lawrence, who is even described by a journalist who knew him, as "a poet, a scholar, and a mighty warrior" (as well as some less flattering things) in the opening.
We ARE Struggling Together: The tribal factions that make up Lawrence' Arab troops have deep-seated resentments. Part of Lawrence's struggle as a military commander is getting the tribes to set aside their differences in the name of a common goal.
After the occupation of Damascus, the tribal resentments come to the surface again as the Arab National Council descends into childish bickering. After an argument that nearly becomes violent, Auda tells Ali that being an "Arab" (as opposed to a member of a tribe) will be harder than he ever imagined. This could have been the filmmaker's jab at the Pan-Arab movement of the 1950s and 60s.