During the Great War, in 1916, Lawrence was the name that all of Arabia looked to as the fought the Turks for their freedom.
Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is a soldier in the British Army and has been stationed in Arabia to make contact with the Arabian army and find a way to help the British initiative to win the war. However, unlike many employees of the British Military Lawrence has taken a slightly different approach to why this war needs to be fought and won. It’s not so that the English can affix themselves into the nation’s infrastructure and take advantage of them, but rather because he loves the Arab people and wants to see them free of tyranny and enjoy their lives under their own nation.
The film tells the tale of Lawrence and his times in Arabia and how he pretty much became the reason why the Arabian army had anything to do with the war. If it wasn’t for Lawrence the country would’ve remained in conflict for years to come and the British would enjoy their vacation leave in the Middle East.
The story itself is as monumental as any real epic. The story is told through the perspective of those who knew him. After his death from a motorcycle accident we see people begin to open up about what kind of man Lawrence was. He befriended a nation and worked in its best interest. This is why it’s beloved.
After having already seen Dr. Zhivago I already have a feel for what a David Lean film looks and feels like. This movie, even though made before Dr. Zhivago, has the exact same ability to give you a setting by actually making it a sum of its parts. Every so often Lean will take the time to focus on these really small elements of a moment before actually engaging the action or purpose of the scene giving it true context. So many movies never take the time to contextualize a scene for you before thrusting you into it. It’s as if directors believe you need to understand from what came before alone, however some stories even just before the climax they need to re-contextualize the scene just because there’re elements that have developed that weren’t mentioned before, like the state of being with the Arabian men now in Damascus or it be the coughing of a Turkish Officer in a cold night in town.
The film is what it promises and much more. While it’s historical accuracy is questionable, which isn’t new to cinema, it doesn’t detract from the greatness of the story, and for anyone who’s watched 300 we all know the effectiveness of a good story.