Home > Uncategorized > On Watching Lawrence of Arabia

On Watching Lawrence of Arabia

On Saturday night, I conned some friends into coming over for an epic viewing session.  My ordinary TV didn’t do justice to the vast expanses of desert scenery, but we had a great time nonetheless.  With my class notes from the seminar, an atlas, and a little help from Wikipedia, we pieced together much of the background of the story.  We kept wanting to compare the style and pace of the film to Dr. Zhivago, and we felt a little sheepish when we realized they had the same director (David Lean) and composer (Maurice Jarre).   

Much as it was fun to see all the camels and ponder the interactions among Arab tribes and Ottoman and British occupiers, it was appalling to see the bigotry inherent in so much of it.  Everyone spoke English, even Bedouins interacting with each other, and the representation of T.E. Lawrence as savior wasn’t even trying to be subtle.  Even before Peter O’Toole donned his white robe, it was clear that he could equal the Arabs in his desert survival skills and far outstrip them with his “special vision” of their future.  His murderous escapades had context and purpose, while those of the Arabs were portrayed as petty.  And his hair–never a strand escaped that bond of grease holding it in place, no matter how far he trekked or how harsh the conditions became!

We all left wanting to learn more about the Arabian experience under the Ottomans and after the European powers drew boundaries for the countries.

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