Friday, February 28, 2020

Is the Desert Really Clean?

I'm always happy to watch Lawrence of Arabia. What a rare movie it is; an epic war film with a massive budget that also has razor sharp thematic focus and impeccable casting, particularly in its then unknown lead, Peter O'Toole. The hints of Lawrence's sexuality, possibly either asexual or homosexual, in O'Toole's sightly effeminate manner, along with his straying from military protocol, help create the sense of how strange it is that one man can be a catalyst for so much.

The story is about World War I and the participation of Arabian tribes but it also manages to be about the question of free will. It never feels forced at any point, even at the extraordinary coincidence of Lawrence having to execute the same man he rescued from the desert. Omar Sharif's character insists, "The writing is still yours" after Anthony Quinn remarked that the man's destiny was written, that it had been futile for Lawrence to have rescued him. Either interpretation is potentially valid.

Either Lawrence represents the spark of creativity necessary for change or the figurehead necessary to justify the change that was already going to occur as he becomes for the American journalist. In any case, his dream seems to fall out of his hands as the tides change in Damascus.

It occurred to me a better version of Daenerys' story on Game of Thrones could've taken a lot of notes from Lawrence of Arabia. The bickering among the tribes, the cultural norms that prevent them from carrying out administrative and maintenance functions when taking control of the city, these kinds of details were sorely lacking among Daenerys' diverse followers. Lawrence ordering a slaughter of Turkish troops certainly made more sense than Daenerys attacking civilians and made the point much clearer about the desire for vengeance undermining an inspiring leader's aims.

But we already have Lawrence of Arabia. In addition to everything else, it remains gorgeous and I'm happy to rest my eyes on it for hours.

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