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The Classic Film Of Lawrence Of Arabia English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1664 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Lawrence of Arabia by David Lean is a classic film set during World War I in the Middle East, centered on British Army Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence.  The film is presented as a conscious piece of historical fiction partially based on Lawrence’s autobiography, Seven Pillars of Wisdom which detailed his experiences with rebels during the Arab Revolt from 1916 to 1918. (Cite Lawrence) Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson, who wrote the screenplay, included many fictional characters that are based on a combination of several historical figures from the era. (Cite Lawrence Wikipedia) David Lean makes an effort to promote Lawrence’s struggle with the violence of war, with his personal identity issues, and his wavering allegiance between the British Army and the Arab Rebels.

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As a classic film, the cinematography is markedly different than our previous film assignment about Kingdom of Heaven by Ridley Scott. The landscapes were awe inspiring with one particularly memorable scene where Lawrence sets to cross the Nefud desert and the sand fades into the horizon like an ocean. Visually the film is beautiful to watch, Cinematographer Frederick A. Young received the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. (CITE) In addition to the visuals, the score and sound is equally, if not more impressive. The film begins with a long orchestral performance performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra which builds anticipation for the films first scenes. Maurice Jarre received the Academy Award for Best Score and the film received the Best Sound Award.  (CITATION)  Overall, the film is enjoyable to watch, although it is very long. Lawrence of Arabia has two acts with an intermission and has a running time of 216 Minutes. (CITATION)

    The film begins in England in 1935, as Lawrence is killed a motorcycle accident.  At Lawrence’s memorial service, a reporter is interviewing Jackson Bentley, “He [Lawrence] was a poet, a scholar and a mighty warrior. He was also the most shameless exhibitionist since Barnum & Bailey.” (Lawrence of Arabia) Bentley’s description of Lawrence is accurate in that he is clearly educated and a successful warrior, yet he is also highly theatrical and egotistical.  As the film progresses, Lawrence’s character becomes more conflicted; he is forced to execute an Arab, and is forced to deceive the Arab Revolt about the Sykes-Picot Agreement. After this interview, the film cuts to Cairo during WWI. 

Lawrence is sent by Mr. Dryden of the Arab Bureau to observe and assess the prospects of Arab Prince Faisal rebelling against the Turks.  Lawrence is selected for this assignment because he has traveled the region extensively and he is familiar with the Bedouin. Mr. Dryden’s character in the film is fictional but believed to be based on Colonel Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot. (CITATION) During Lawrence’s journey to Prince Faisal’s camp, Lawrence gives his gun to his guide. Sherif Ali spots Lawrence’s Bedouin guide drinking from a well without permission and kills the guide but spares Lawrence. (Lawrence of Arabia) This scene shows the first signs of Lawrence’s wavering loyalties to the British Army and also his dislike of violence.

Upon arriving at Faisal’s camp, British Colonel Brighton orders Lawrence to keep quiet, make his assessment of Faisal’s camp, and leave. After a surprise attack from Turkish war planes, Lawrence ignores Brighton’s commands and proposes a surprise attack on Aqaba. (Lawrence of Arabia) Throughout the films first act, Lawrence shows growing loyalties to the Arab Revolt and their cause.

        Aqaba is a key strategic point for the British and Arab Revolt in WWI. The town is fortified against an assault from the British Navy but is lightly guarded on the landward side. Lawrence convinces Faisal that the British will be able to use Aqaba to offload supplies including guns and artillery for use in fighting the Turks. Faisal’s character is based on Faisal I of Iraq, who organized the Arab revolt and would later be proclaimed the Kind of the Arab Kingdom of Syria following WWI. (Wikipedia Faisal I of Iraq GELVIN?)

Faisal provides fifty men lead by Sherif Ali and Lawrence and his men begin the journey to Abaqa.  Sherif Ali’s character is fictional and likely based on several Arab leaders as Lawrence did not serve with only one Arab leader throughout the war. (Wikipedia Lawrence) Before leaving camp, Lawrence accepts Daud and Farraj, two orphans, as his servants for the journey. This showed Lawrence’s mercy and compassion for Arabs as Sharif Ali insisted that he should not take the orphans and that they were inferior.

Lawrence and the Arab Revolt soldiers must cross the Nefud Desert, which is considered impassable by the Bedouins. Upon reaching the desert Sherif Ali says “That is the desert. From here until we reach the other side, no water but what we carry with us. For the camels, no water at all. If the camels die, we die. And in twenty days they will start to die.” Lawrence replies, “There’s no time to waste, then, is there?” (Lawrence of Arabia)  Throughout the film Lawrence responds to challenges and adversity by pushing thru obstacles with a positive attitude.  Visually, this part of the film was memorable as the desert seemed to fade into the sky like an ocean. During the final stages of the desert, they must travel day and night to reach water. During the night, Gasim falls off his camel and is left behind. Once Lawrence and his men make it to an oasis, Lawrence turns back for Gasim alone, risking his own life in the process and showing courage and bravery. (Lawrence of Arabia) By rescuing Gasim, Lawrence proves his loyalty to the Arab Revolt.

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After reaching the Oasis Lawrence meets Auda abu Tayi, the leader of the Howeitat tribe. Auda abu Tayi is a factually based historical character. (GELVIN Wikipedia) Lawrence convinces the Howeitat tribe to turn against the Turks. One of Ali’s men kills one of Auda’s because of a blood feud and in order to settle the dispute Lawrence declares that he will execute the murderer himself. Lawrence is surprised to learn that the killer is Gasim, but Lawrence executes him anyway.  This scene begins to show that Lawrence is conflicted about the violence inherent in war. Later in the film, Lawrence becomes more conflicted, as he admits to liking executing Gasim to General Allenby.  The next morning, Lawrence and the Arab Revolt soldiers take Aqaba from the Turks. Lawrence promises “guns, artillery and lots of gold” to Auda abu Tayi then heads to Cairo to inform Dryden of his victory. (Lawrence of Arabia) Upon reaching Cairo, Lawrence is promoted to Major and given arms and money to help fight the Turks. After Lawrence insists, General Allenby assures Lawrence that the British have no desires for Arabia after the war.

At the beginning of act two, Lawrence begins attacking Turkish trains and convoys. Jackson Bentley, a journalist from Chicago joins Lawrence and the Arab Revolt to write an article about “Lawrence of Arabia”. Bentley’s articles made Lawrence famous after WWI when he returned to England. During the Lawrence’s next raid, his servant Farraj is badly injured. Lawrence is forced to shoot him so that he is not tortured. This scene shows Lawrence’s mercy and shows his loyalty to his men and the Arab Revolt. Lawrence is captured on his next mission while scouting the Turkish held city of Daraa. The Turks strip, interrogate, and torture Lawrence but release him when he does not give up any information about the Arab Revolt. (Lawrence of Arabia)

Following Lawrence’s capture in Daraa, he is a changed man. Allenby is preparing to attack Damascus, yet Lawrence is initially unwilling to support the British. This scene shows that Lawrence is fed up and does not participate in the violence of war. Allenby is able to convince Lawrence to assist in the push on Damascus and Lawrence is tasked with recruiting an army. During the journey to Damascus, Lawrence’s men spot a group of Turks retreating from battle and attack. Lawrence and the Arabs massacre the Turks and during this scene Lawrence appears to enjoy the killing. (Lawrence of Arabia) At this point in the film, Lawrence is struggling with his loyalty and his personal issues with violence.

Lawrence and the Arab Revolt take Damascus before General Allenby’s forces arrive. The Arabs set up a council to administer the city, but they are unable to work together. Ministers responsible for fire service, water, sewer and other utilities constantly bicker with each other while fires are raging thru the city. Eventually the Arab Council turns the city over to the British. After the British take control of Damascus, Lawrence is promoted to colonel and ordered home. The film ends as Lawrence is clearly distraught being driven away in a staff car.

Ridley Scott conveys his primary theme with his final message that “Nearly a thousand years later, peace in the Kingdom of Heaven remains elusive.” (Kingdom of Heaven 2005) Throughout the film we see evidence that Scott is promoting peaceful coexistence between religions. King Baldwin IV states, “A man must choose to do good deeds instead of evil” and “Your Soul is in control of your own.”  (Kingdom of Heaven 2005) Balian consistently supports this theme by resisting violence, by refusing to fight over his horse, releasing Guy de Langston after the final duel and many other times during the film.  Ridley Scott has disguised Kingdom of Heaven as a visually pleasing historical action film; Scott wants his audience to realize the futility of war and the value of peaceful coexistence between all religions.




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