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I thought it was time I watched some classic movies, and the films of David Lean were suggested to me by a family friend. I’ve seen three of them so far, and here are some of my thoughts…

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia is visually stunning, an epic masterpiece that truly deserves its reputation as one of the classic movies in cinematic history. Lawrence is brilliantly portrayed by Peter O’Toole, and possibly even better is the wonderful Omar Sharif as his friend Ali. A beautiful, epic movie – a tad too long maybe, but then I think anything over 3 hours, no matter how good, is pushing it. The key to its brilliance though is the combination of classic soundtrack and epic cinematography. The scenes of the desert, and the sun rising over it are truly memorable, and served to place it as a benchmark in cinematic history.

A Passage to India (1984)

I really enjoyed this, the last of David Lean’s movies. I’d read the book in the Philippines three years ago, and didn’t realise it was the same story until I started watching! A brilliantly adapted movie, this should be one of the benchmark’s for adaptations, as it sticks to the spirit of the book, remains engrossing despite the fact I knew what the outcome would be.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Alec Guinness is in both Lawrence and Passage, but it is in this that he plays the central character, putting in a brilliant performance as a British officer who’s own sense of right and wrong, and how to act under surrender to the Japanese, leads him to get his troops to build the best bridge possible over the River Kwai. His actions are contrasted with the harsh supervision of Japanese officer Saito, who initially forces officers to work on the bridge too, and an American navy man played by William Holden. As a study of Hollywood- or even 1950s- perceptions of three nations through their respective characters, it is engrossing. The British spirit, musically demonstrated by the “Bogey March” whistled at several points through the film, and the officers rather twisted sense of right and wrong. The Japanese spirit, through Saito’s martial commands, severity, and his insistence he will have to commit suicide if the bridge is not finished. The American spirit, through Holden’s entrepreneurial wheeling dealing that sees him escape the jungle and end up with a babe on a each, but then ultimately go back in to ‘heroically’ see things through. The final scenes are moving and exciting. Of the three movies, I enjoyed this the most- it was a war film with its own ambiguities. Despite the controversy of its source novel not representing the reality of what went on in Southeast Asia during the war, and the stereotypical behaviour of characters, as a piece of storytelling in its own right it works extremely successfully.

Last on my Lean List is Doctor Zhivago- thoughts to come.