Following a breathtaking restoration, we can now watch David Lean’s majestic epic the way it should be seen. Roll off of the sofa, put down those mince pies and head to the cinema.
David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia is one of those mysterious films that everybody has seen and yet cannot remember much of. This may be because they either saw it over fifty years ago when it was first released, or because they saw it over xmas one year, drifting in and out over mulled wine, TV on in the background, as the three hour and thirty six minute running time played out. The director Peter Greenaway once held a lecture suggesting that the death of cinema first came with the invention of the remote control, the ingenious device which allows us to turn the volume up or down, fast forward, pause, stop or abandon the moving image without ever leaving our comfortable seats. So when the opportunity arises of seeing such a classic film in the cinema, without the temptation to turn it down three hours in, or fast forward because you’ve more minced pies to make, the opportunity should be rushed at.
Lawrence of Arabia has been digitally re-restored with a director’s cut and is being shown at selected cinemas until mid December. The film is a stunning masterpiece, with utterly compelling performances by Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, while Alec Guinness is a delight as Prince Faisal, even if it does seem ridiculous now to have a classically trained British actor play an Arabic prince. It is an epic tale about colonialism, the fight for independence and the meddling affairs of the British in Arabia. Sound familiar? It shows the backstabbing political games that those in power played at the time to gain control. It is a tale about the ego of one man, of competition and masculinity, and even of desire. These interwoven themes, set against the backdrop of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, create not just a historical epic but also a personal story about obsession and the psychology of the will to succeed. With an iconic soundtrack, sumptuous cinematography and crowd and battle scenes beyond the scope of anything filmed today in live action, i.e. non CGI, this film was meant to be seen on the big screen. It is a real treat that will not come around again soon. I implore you, go out now and run to the BFI, Empire Leicester Square or a nationwide cinema that is screening nearby. You will not be disappointed.
Lawrence of Arabia runs at the Empire Leicester Square until the 6th, at the BFI Southbank until 13th and at other selected cinemas nationwide until mid December.
Text Joe Cohen