BU Film School

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FT 540 Reading: Lawrence of Arabia

Screenplay info
Written by: Michael Wilson and Robert Bolt, based on writings of T.E. Lawrence
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0056172
Filmsite.org link: http://www.filmsite.org/lawr.html

Synopsis
An unidentified motorcyclist crashes, which may or may not be accidental. Funeral is for Lawrence. Introduces several characters and their opinions of the deceased.

Flashback to Cairo, where Lawrence is a junior officer (coloring in maps). Over general's protests, Lawrence is seconded to the Arab Bureau, sent to sound out Prince Feisal on his intentions. Lawrence is guided by Tafas. They drink at a Harith well. Tafas is killed by Ali. (First sign of tribal conflict.)

Planes bomb Feisal's camp. Brighton and Feisal argue about retreat to Yenbo -- safety, easy of supply. Lawrence later gets idea for attack on Akaba from land. He takes 50 of Feisal's men to cross Nefud. Daud and Farraj follow, are found, insit on serving Lawrence. While crossing mud-flat, Gasim loses camel. Even though sun is coming up, Lawrence goes back for Gasim and brings him out. Ali gives Lawrence Arab clothes, men respect him.

Auda comes, says they're stealing water, grants them hospitality only after Lawrence intervenes. He persuades Auda to join attack. One of Ali's men kills one of Auda's, looks like war will break out. Lawrence says will execute, horrified to find it's Gasim, but shoots nonetheless.

Attack succeeds. Lawrence crosses Sinai with Daud and Farraj, heading toward Cairo. Daud lost in quicksand. Lawrence and Farraj end up in Cairo, go to club for drinks, rebuffed and scorned. Brighton brings Lawrence to Allenby's office. Allenby promotes him to Major, says will send back. Lawrence says he won't go back (liked killing). Allenby makes him feel special, takes him to club. Lawrence elicits promise of no British ambitions in Arabia.

Bentley interviews Feisal. Wants hero for paper, to get America into war. Couple of scenes with rails being blow up, trains being looted, people leaving with loot. (First one, incident with Turk shooting at Lawrence, who doesn't move.) Auda leaves with loot. Lawrence argues with Brighton. What Arab Army? Another rail attempt, but Farraj injured before can detonate. Lawrence must shoot him.

Lawrence and Ali go to Deraa. Lawrence caught, beaten by Turks. Lawrence tries to resign, but Allenby won't accept, forces Lawrence to admit he's extraordinary. "They'll come for me ..." Arab army comes across devastated village, massacres Turks responsible. Allenby arrives in Damascus, finds Arabs already there, have established Arab National Council. Council conflict, word of fire. Lawrence engulfed by petitioners. British don't fight fire (not their domain anymore). Lawrence resigns. Auda to go back home, Ali to stay and learn politics. Lawrence sees Turkish hospital. Lawrence promoted to Colonel, goes back "home".

My notes
-- camera directions specify long, medium, close shots -- excellent arrangement.
-- several scenes in club, showing Lawrence never fits in
-- another protagonist with extraordinary man's burden. put into situations with extreme choices.
-- desert as another character. setting and obstacle.
-- very detailed business.
-- Lawrence courts danger -- putting out match, letting Turk shoot at him
-- investigates background, character of one man, yet does things on grand scale.

FT 540 notes (from 05/27/03)
-- example of Golden Age
-- desert journey
-- 1st half, becomes private hero. 2nd half, becomes public hero.
-- interaction of nature, theme and character.
-- desert part of Lawrence's journey toward heroic stature
-- unification of tribes, then dismemberment after English betrayal (fire)
-- Robert Bolt, who got main credit, wrote British army scenes, but most of screenplay by Michael Wilson (blacklisted).

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