A friend of mine said recently, while we watched Lawrence of Arabia: 'No matter how many times I watch it I never want it to end'. How else can you properly describe a film that goes on for more than three hours, contains many scenes which focus on a desert for long stretches and has no sex or drugs but yet still works?
David Lean directs the film to perfection, as it not only hooks you to the screen but captures the intense, stuffy, dream-like killer that is the desert - where time stands still. The acting is also stunning, with Peter O'Toole as the enigma of El Aurens, solider, prince of Arabs, lord of the desert, masochist, showman, genius and fool. Alec Guiness turns in one of the best performances of his career (and that really is saying something) and Claude Rains as the untrustworthy Dryden, telling lies to hide the truth, but remembering where he put it.
Many images in the film are awe-inspiring; the hero returning from the desert with Gasim in tow and the perfect show of Lawrence against the azure sky as the instigator of the fight between the two tribes is revealed (it was written after all), the camera panning during the charge on Aquaba to show the guns pointing to the sea or the blustering officer shaking Lawrence's hand in headquarters, not realising he has met him before, albeit where he reacted quite differently.
The script is also beyond belief. Among my favourite lines are:
Lawrence: 'There may be honour among thieves but there's none in Politicians';
Dryden: 'And let's have no displays of indignation. You may not have know but you have certainly had suspicions. If I've told lies, you've told half lies. And a man who tells lies like me, merely hides the truth, whereas a man who tells half lies, has forgotten where he put it'
Sherif Ali: 'A man can be whatever he wants'
El Aurens: 'Yes, but he can't want what he wants'.
Prince Faisal: 'The virtues of war are virtues of young men; passion and bravery. Then old men must make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men; mistrust and caution'.
Just for good measure, let me just say that the music is also exceptional, which when combined with the acting, directing, sets, story and script make a perfect film which never ever gets old.