Reviews: Lawrence Of Arabia

Wherein I have Slash Fic Flashbacks and Alec Guinness Bores Me

To get this out of the way: this film is a masterpiece. Much better writers than me have expounded upon the greatness of the cinematography, the score, the acting, the pacing (it's very well paced considering it's over 3.5 hours long), etc.

If, like me, you've read some slash (male/male) fanfiction, though, you may become increasingly amused by just how many slash conventions are present in this film. Let me count the ways:

-Two men, one coded "dark" while the other is coded "light"

-From different worlds

-They initially don't like each other (Antagonism! Oh my!)

-But the outsider wins his love over through novel thinking and bravery


-Utter devotion and feelings of helpless desire

In reference to the last point, consider the following lines:

Ali: A man can do whatever he wants, you said. Lawrence: He can, but he can't want what he wants.

Now, of course, this is intentional given statements David Lean has made about Lawrence's sexuality but it is rather intriguing to see tropes that regularly appear in a format of writing (slash fic) that's so often derided also appear in one of the classics of modern cinema. It surprised me to be sure (not in a bad way).

One aspect that was disappointing, however, was the character of Prince Feisal. Quite simply, Alec Guinness sticks out rather uncomfortably as a very non-Arab man in a clearly Arab role. True, it was the 1960s, but Guinness is hampered by being uncharacteristically dull in the role. He feels generic and isn't very memorable unfortunately. This is feeling is compounded should one watch the unofficial sequel "A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia" in which Siddig El-Fadil gives an excellent performance in the role.

Alec Guinness aside, this film truly holds up and manages to mesh some of the politics of the Arab conflict in WWI (from a limited and biased perspective) with Lawrence's rise and fall while demonstrating some of the challenges facing the region.

And a special mention to Omar Sharif who is wonderfully multi-faceted as Sharif Ali. It's rare to see well-developed Arab characters come out of Hollywood productions and Ali is amongst the best, despite the fact that he appeared onscreen over fifty years ago.

Overall, I would most highly recommend this film. Despite its length, it captivated me every step of the way.