Monday 11 December 2006 by Mal Booth. 1 comment
Exhibitions, Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse

Before the recent Canberra screening of Lawrence of Arabia, we advised that there would be a competition and that we'd give out details first to the audience for the screenings in Canberra at Electric Shadows cinema. So, as promised, here are the details of the competition.

Review the film in 500 words or less by sending in your review as a comment on this blog and we will publish the best entry on the blog. That's all.



Matthew Gibbs

Thomas Edward Lawrence, the five-and-a-half-foot-tall bookish-looking Englishman is fortunate to be immortalised on film by the six-foot-plus Irish actor Peter O’Toole. With his piercing blue eyes and golden hair, O’Toole makes Lawrence look like Adonis. Noel Coward joked that the actor was so “pretty” that the movie was in danger of being retitled ‘Florence of Arabia’. Physically and emotionally, 'Lawrence of Arabia' creates a powerful impression of Lawrence and his leadership of the Arab revolt against the Turks during WWI. Directed by David Lean and based on Lawrence’s own account in 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom', the movie won a swag of Oscars in 1962, including Best Picture, Best Direction and Best Original Music. Only Gregory Peck’s performance as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, judged the greatest hero of American film, denied O’Toole the Best Actor gong. It’s hard to believe that Marlon Brando was originally preferred. Although the veracity of some of the events shown on screen is questionable (the Aussies not the Arabs were the first to Damascus), opinions about Lawrence have shifted over the decades like desert sands. He was, as his friend Winston Churchill said of Russia, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. In any event, 'Lawrence of Arabia' is an entertainment not a documentary. For facts, and a bicep workout, read Jeremy Wilson’s 1,200-page authorised biography. ‘Who was Lawrence?’ is the movie’s central theme. Mourners interviewed on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral after his funeral express disparate views from the outset. The film is told in flashback, opening with Lawrence’s death in a motorcycle accident. The major episodes of Lawrence’s guerrilla war are depicted, including his first meeting with Prince Feisal (played by Lean favourite Alec Guinness), the heroic capture of Akaba and his assault by the Turkish Bey at Deraa (a brilliant cameo by Jose Ferrer who gives his character a sickly cough to symbolise his sickly designs on Lawrence). Lawrence’s enigmatic nature manifests throughout, from his mixed feelings about violence (he confesses to General Allenby that he enjoyed killing a man), to the contrast between his awkwardness in army uniform and the naturalness with which he dons Arab robes. The film has depth beyond the action. Robert Bolt’s screenplay is as literate and sophisticated as anything the author of 'A Man for All Seasons' wrote for the theatre. While Maurice Jarre’s music evokes the exoticness of the Middle East and the undulating vastness of its desert landscape. 'Lawrence of Arabia' is an epic masterpiece that achieves an intimacy with its central character. We witness Lawrence’s inner demons and outward decency, his traumas and triumphs. Who he was remains moot. For O’Toole, sublime in his first major role and appearing in almost every scene, Lawrence has been a hard act to follow. T. E. Lawrence was already one of the best-known Britons of the Twentieth century. 'Lawrence of Arabia' ensures his celebrity for all time.