Lawrence of Arabia is a film so long that its trailer lasts nearly 5 minutes. Clocking in at around 3 and a half hours, it’s the sort of runtime that has Peter Jackson salivating. The intermission should have an intermission. If you want to watch the whole film without a bathroom break you might need a catheter, or at least an empty bottle.
It’s long, is what I’m saying. When someone uses the word ‘epic’ in terms of film, Lawrence of Arabia is often the first example they reach for. It’s an account of the British’s attempt to unify the nomadic Arab tribes against the Ottoman Empire and help win WWI, an attempt that worked pretty well in that the Ottoman Empire is no more and said tribes (eventually) got their own countries with borders nicely mapped out by their colonial overlords. And if you buy the film, it’s all down to one man the eponymous Lawrence.
Shot mainly in Morocco, Spain and the beautiful Wadi Rum in Jordan, the film is visually stunning. The desert stretches off into the distance in every shot, with all its harsh but elegant beauty. David Lean and DoP Freddie Young have a perfect eye for gorgeous shots – check out Omar Sharif’s first introduction, or the first time we see a figure topping the crest of a sand dune. These are shots that have influenced filmmakers for decades since.
The cast is excellent too, if you can get past the odd bit of brownface (I’m looking at you, Alec Guinness). After all, it’s the film that brought the late great Omar Sharif into the public eye, and of course catapulted Peter O’Toole to superstardom.
If you can get past the fact that your bum will be stiff and your back will be aching by the time you’ve finished the film, I really do suggest that you watch it. It’s slow-paced, but it’s worth every minute.