Lawrence of Arabia

Director: David Lean

T.E. Lawrence was an outsider who, in his Arabian adventures (he united Arab tribes in battle against the Ottoman Turks in WW1), succeeded in making creative use of private obsession. He was a divided man who was both exhibitionist and recluse, shy yet possessed of indomitable will, an intellectual yet also a man of action. For director David Lean, Lawrence became another in his roll-call of isolated visionaries. Like Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence is a visionary with the audacity and single-mindedness to inspire others with his leadership. Like Nicholson, this Englishman only seems at home outside England, and he looks more at ease in Arab robes than Army uniform. But he is playing with fire and maybe he gets too much sun and becomes another character type who fascinated Lean and whom Lawrence himself thought the most dangerous of human species: the dreamer who dreams by daylight. The central image of Lawrence of Arabia is the mirage. Its most memorable visual manifestation is the extraordinary sustained shot of Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) as he slowly emerges out of the desert. But in a way the mirage is also key to Lawrence, representing his self-delusion and the enigma he poses to himself and to others.
Cut at the time of its original release in 1962, Lawrence of Arabia was restored to its full 70mm glory in 1989. This will be the first screening of the 70mm print in Dublin. Apart from renewing the splendours of Freddie Young’s Oscar-winning cinematography, this version also contains some intriguing new material. One such scene includes an exchange between Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) and Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) prior to Lawrence’s expedition to Akaba, in which Feisal asks pointedly: ‘In whose name do you ride?’ Even more interesting is a finely acted scene between Allenby (Jack Hawkins) and Brighton (Anthony Quale) where the former asks: ‘Do you think he’s gone native, Harry?’ It suddenly suggests Lawrence as an ingenious variation on Heart of Darkness played out in desert rather than jungle.

U.K./U.S,A., 1962. [Restored version, 1989].
Super Panavision 70.
Stereo sound.
216 mins.

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