David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia is today recognized as one of the 20th century’s greatest works of artistic production. The film is epic in scope and production, as it follows the life of T.E. Lawrence as he makes an astounding impact in Arabia during World War I…
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Particular emphasis is placed on Lawrence’s participation in attacks on Aqaba and Damascus, as well as his involvement in the Arab National Council. Within this overarching narrative, the film further explores Lawrence’s complex and oftentimes conflicted identity and perspectives. The film would go on to claim an Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as an extensive array of other awards.1 Even while the film gained great critical acclaim, one considers that the film undeniably is of first class aesthetic quality. Through a consideration of criticism, perspective, and my personal opinion, this essay examines David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia. The film opens with a truly epic credit sequence. While the film title and credits remain static the epic music and slow paced editing indicate to the viewer that the film is going to be expansive and truly Earth moving. Following this credit sequence, however, is a scene where T.E. Lawrence is riding on a motor scooter along a narrow road. The filmmakers implement a cinema-verite style means of articulation, as bumpy shots of Lawrence on the motorcycle are counter-posed against point of view shots from his perspective. Critics further argue that Lawrence’s lack a helmet intensifies his characterization as wild and potentially reckless.2 The scene itself serves to act as juxtaposition from the slow-paced credit sequence, but also seems to function as a metaphor on Lawrence’s life....
In the next scene Lawrence is featured writing on a map. It is here that, in a sense, the actual story begins. The film then explores the meeting that leads to Lawrence’s transfer to Arabia. While from a strictly narrative standpoint the information in this scene could be explained in a simple sentence, the scene holds the viewer’s interest through the strong and engaging acting and character dynamics. Indeed, this will become a one of the prominent structural elements that drive the narrative and viewer interest. This scene is followed by a shot of the Arab sunrise. This shot demands further consideration, as it is both expansive and exquisite. One considers that the film’s widescreen format functions as a means of allowing the capture of this transcendent image. In addition to fitting thematically into the film’s epic scope, it operates as a powerful interlude between the Western capital model of organization and what could be considered a more desolate, yet firmer connection to natural being evidenced in the Arabian desert. One considers the ancient Muslim tradition of praying towards the Sun, as well as endless mythology that figures the Sun as a central aspect of spiritual existence; in this sense the scene transcends the film’s narrative elements for a deeper sense of spiritual purpose. One considers that later in the film there are perspective shots of the Moon and surrounding stars. The effect seems to be a general linking of the film’s infrastructure to the timeless and transcendental qualities of the universe and nature. Still, in terms of the narrative this shot functions as a pivotal transition between the aforementioned Western culture and that of the Middle East. This clash of perspectives will become of the film’s central thorough-puts
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