I have been blown away many a time by many a film, though as time passes by at breakneck speed, so few are able to blow me away time and time again in repeated viewings. Lawrence of Arabia is one of those few. While David Lean’s glorious masterpiece (a word I do not toss around often) is not my favourite film, it does sit high upon a pedestal of the greatest films I have ever seen. I can not think of another film of equal or greater length that has managed to sustain my interest as consistently as Lawrence of Arabia does in its nearly 4 hour runtime. Much of what keeps me entertained does not have to do with the plot, the score, or most of the supporting performances, but rather, that eccentric leading performance from the late Peter O’Toole, as T.E. Lawrence, and that absolutely gorgeous cinematography.
The first time I saw the film, I was completely hooked by the time Sherif Ali makes his grand entrance, initially appearing as nothing more than a speck on the screen, before slowly materializing into a full blooded, and violent figure. I can not think of too many other films that dedicated that much time and effort to introduce a character. I do not think I can name another film that took the time to showcase the rising of a bright orange sun that fills the sky with its warm glow as gracefully as Lawrence of Arabia did. Nor can I think of such a magnetic, yet eccentric and carefree performance as the one Peter O’Toole delivers. Whether he is uttering blunt thoughts or speaking through his eyes, his Lawrence chews up every scene with a delightful cheekiness, spontaneity, and flamboyance. You can hardly take your eyes off him for even a second as he completely dominates every scene he is featured in. At the end of the day when all the dust settles, when I find myself reflecting upon this magnificent work, I am always quietly moved by every single frame of this gorgeous film. I can not find a single visual flaw, a singular moment that sticks out as odd or misplaced or weird. Every frame blends together splendidly, coherently, and perfectly. Lawrence of Arabia, with such a wide visual scope and a story of truly epic proportions, is one of those rare films that makes you feel as small and insignificant as an ant. To see Lawrence in his ceremonial garments, a small silhouetted figure standing against an enormous sky, is to be reminded of how enormous our world really is, and just how beautiful this film truly is.
I honestly believe that the best kinds of films invite you into their worlds, captivate your heart, mind, and soul, and in doing so, help provide you with an escape from the hardships of your life, if only for a couple of hours. The greatest films one can ever watch not only do that, but are of such marvellous quality, one often finds themselves wishing they would never end and that you could continue the journey for hours more. Lawrence of Arabia is one of the finest examples of this ideal, a true cinematic gem. What a wonderful experience.