• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

In praise of - lawrence of arabia.

If there is nowhere left to discover in the world, at least there is Lawrence of Arabia.

At least, in that film, we can follow Lawrence across the desert, which is the great villain, the great hero and the great beauty of the movie. And at least we can be reminded that Earth can be an alien planet too – remember it was Lawrence of Arabia George Lucas was thinking of when he invented a planet called Tatooine.

But there is another even greater reason to see Lawrence of Arabia – which you can do at the Glasgow Film Theatre from Sunday until Tuesday – and that's the violence, or rather Lawrence's relationship to it.

Think of that scene near the start when Lawrence lets a match burn down until it singes his skin. He doesn't even flinch. "The trick," he says, " is not minding that it hurts."

And then later when Lawrence is captured and beaten by the Turks, there is that terribly ambiguous moment when we hear the whoosh and slap of the whip and the camera comes in close to his face. What is that expression? Stoicism? Pleasure?

That's the great mystery, and joy, of the movie. Perhaps Lawrence was a masochist. Perhaps he was a sadist (he admits to his superior that he enjoyed executing one of his men). Perhaps he was, like so many other great men, excited and turned on by violence. And yet Lawrence was a sensitive man too, appalled by war and killing. He was complicated, that was the thing, which makes him better than most heroes, who are never complicated.

And he was one more thing. "These are tributes for the prince and flowers for the men," says an Arab to Lawrence at one point. "I am more than those things," says Lawrence. "What then?" asks the Arab and Lawrence says: "I don't know." He was uncertain, and heroes are rarely that either.

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.