David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia was first released in 1962. Until a few days ago, I had never seen it, but last week I bought the Bluray version of the restored and remastered 50th Anniversary Edition. I watched it on Saturday evening, and it was a revelation. Made in the days long before CGI, the spectacles created by Lean and his crew are simply breathtaking.
The first entrance of Sherif Ali, riding out of a mirage on his camel, is stunningly done; while the subsequent brief exchange between him and Lawrence encapsulates the vast cultural difference between the Arab and the Englishman.
The actors, without exception, are excellent, and Peter O’Toole creates a believable portrait of T. E. Lawrence. How accurate it is, I cannot say, but his character is fully realised.
The film, of course, totally fails the Bechdel Test. Indeed, there is not a single speaking role for a woman in the whole film, which runs to 216 minutes. The only women we ever glimpse are veiled (or dead).
It clearly is a story about the deeds of men, in politics and war, and it’s not a pretty story, despite the stunning backdrops. It is, however, a very great film. I will be watching it again.