Free The Power Within Lawrence Of Arabia Essay Example
The desert has its own nature, which can be harmful for the uninitiated and helpful for the ones who know it. David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia portrays a connection between the Arabic Desert and the British Lieutenant Lawrence. Harsh and uncontrolled for some, Lawrence gives the Arabs the hope for finding their independence, their freedom, just like the desert always assures them of the rigid, but guaranteed vastness of their freedom. Between freedom and rigidness, the desert presents both strengths and weaknesses that make it powerful, empowering its people as well. Through characters, theme and film techniques, Lawrence of Arabia is a courageous masterpiece that illustrates that the weaknesses can be optimized into strengths, for generating the source of power, while the strengths can boost the existent power.
The “desert power”, the movie’s theme, as T.E. Lawrence described it (Tuck 140) has its own particularity, expressed through inconsequence (Rockwell 1959). In Lawrence of Arabia (Lean), the hero Lawrence found power in the desert’s inconsistent nature, which shaped tough and stubborn people, impossible to work with, as he primarily considered. Initially he perceived as weaknesses the fact that the Arabian people were inconsistent, had no strategy, no unity, fighting each other and acting like barbarians, but he later understood that these were his own misconceptions.
Caton (136) indicates that the Bedouins’ image as savage, barbaric and violent individuals is another weakness, underlined in the movie through the music for emphasizing the Arabs’ disadvantage when facing the more disciplined Turk army. Lawrence overpasses these preconceptions, although he witnesses barbaric acts, like the episode wherein Sherriff Ali murders the British lieutenant’s Bedouin guide for drinking water from a well without his permission (Lean, Lawrence of Arabia). By overpassing these perceived weaknesses, Lawrence understands that the living context of the Arabs shapes them into being tough and often intolerant, even with their own people. He accepts the Arabs’ way of being and applies their rules, when executing Gasim in order to avoid further blood spill among rival Arab tribes (Eidinow 163). While demonstrating understanding and acceptance of the Arab ways, considered as weaknesses by the Occidentals, Lawrence builds his power, helping the Bedouins to achieve power, by making them trust him to lead them to their independence.
The Arab weaknesses included the lack of munitions, weapons and artillery for fighting in wars like the other nations. These weaknesses made the Arabs more resilient to hardships. As the movie illustrates through specific cinematic techniques, the Arabs have developed special senses, much sharper than any other human beings, being able to spot somebody from miles, to discern strange, unnatural sounds or resist in severe conditions. The Arabs’ lack of military army, lack of unity among the local tribes and inexistent strategy is compensated by their connection to the desert. The movie reflects that they are the single people who can travel across the desert for 30 days, with little or no water, and still survive.
The cinematography in Lawrence of Arabia highlights the Arabs’ physical and psychological resilience to the ardent sun of the desert, its interminable sand territories or the storm dust. While Lawrence, an European not familiarized with the extreme conditions of the Arabic desert, starts hallucinating, the experienced Arabs know how to preserve their energy and remain focused, ignoring the mesmerizing sands. The Arabs’ connection with the desert, and later Lawrence’s communion with the clean sands of the desert, represents the strengths of the Arabs, stemmed from the weakness of being born in an extreme environment, to which they had to adjust. Their weaknesses of living in an unfriendly environment with little resources developed their competitive ability of accommodating to the desert’s conditions, which is how they reached to Aqaba and later to Damask (Messenger 320).
Messenger (320) suggests that in his venture to strengthen the diplomatic relationships between the Arabs and the British forces while both fighting against the Turks, Lawrence “appreciated their [Arab’s] strengths, and was tolerant of their weaknesses”. Rather than being tolerant, the movie Lawrence of Arabia depicts clear scenes wherein Lawrence uses the Arab weaknesses for achieving power for the Arabs. When he meets Auda abu Tayi, the leader of one of the most powerful Arab tribes, Lawrence uses the Arab’s weakness, Auda’s thirst for gold and wealth, in order to persuade him to join him in conquering Aqaba (Lean, “Lawrence of Arabia”). Tempted by the riches of Aqaba, Auda abu Tayi joins Lawrence in his campaign, contributing with his soldiers to occupying Aqaba from the Turks. Lawrence demonstrated not tolerance to their nature when Auda’s people robbed the trains they derailed, but the military strategy of turning a weakness into strength and increasing his military capacity (Messenger 320). By letting Auda’s people return home with the war prey, they would popularize Lawrence’s successes, making more volunteer interested in joining his military campaigns.
The discussion on whether power comes from one’s strength or weakness generate can be incorporated in a broader conversation about the Occident and Orient, wherein the Occident is perceived as the dominant, but indulgent power, while the Orient is submissive and unknowing (Dora 209). In Lawrence of Arabia, the strength is a representation of abundance, army, colonization, and superior culture, considered as the specific distinctions of England, in contrast with the modest lifestyle, inexistent weapon equipment for the army and limited education, which define the weakness of the Arab world. The perceived submissive nature of the Orient generated a military advantage for the Arabs. Prince Fasal willingly accepted Lawrence’s plan conquering the Aqaba, knowing that in the end this crazy endeavor would generate strategic advantages for him. The initial intentions of the Arabs were to refuse Lawrence’s plan, fearing that they might not be able to cross the long deserted land that took them to Aqaba. By showing humble acceptance of the Englishman’s plans, the Arabs demonstrated that they can use a perceived weakness (the submissiveness) in their advantage. The setting of the movie, wherein Prince Fasal criticizes Lawrence for not informing his superiors, while giving him a part of his army, suggests the Arab submissiveness is turned into an advantage, which generates power.
The source of power in Lawrence of Arabia was not determined by the strength, not in the way the strength was expressed by the conqueror nations like England or Turkey. The surprise factor, characteristic to the Arab nations, which acclimatized to the inconsistent desert, with sudden changes of weather, was the source of power that served the weak ones. This surprise factor, Lawrence, was in fact considered to be a weak link sent to manage the British’ intervention against the Turks in Damask, only for serving England’s interest. Inconsistent, rebel, unpunctual, arrogant, Lawrence possesses a series of weaknesses that are not agreeable for his Superiors, which is one of the reasons for which he was sent into the desert (Caton 146). His own commander, General Murray, tells him he cannot stand his “type”, referring to his inconsistent and undisciplined nature, contrary and antithetic with the British tradition of discipline (Lean “Lawrence of Arabia”).
Knowing one’s weaknesses and strengths leads to transforming them into power (Messenger 320). Lawrence’s representation in the movie is a symbol of the weaknesses turned into strengths and power. In the beginning of the movie, Lawrence is shown putting off a burning match with his fingertips, which provokes a vivid pain for one of his companions, but leaves him indifferent. He develops resilience to pain, just as the Arabs develop resilience to their severe existence in the desert, which makes them stronger in this environment than their opponent (Messenger 320). Through exercise and continuous exposure to the aspects that provoke pain, suffering and hardships the Bedouins shaped their potential of beating the enemy with their own weapons – the desert’s environment and their resistant nature, which represent a theme of the movie.
While the strengths are optimized, the weaknesses are transformed into strengths, for producing power in Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. Lean uses the settings, the music and the cinematography for highlighting how Lawrence manages to incorporate the Arabs’ perceived or actual weaknesses for attaining his plan of making Arabia independent. The movie indicates that the real power comes from the rightful management of weaknesses, integrated into the military strategic plans for generating the desired outcomes. Prince Fasal’s submissive acceptance of Lawrence’s plan to conquer Aqaba with only several people, the gold avidity, lack of military weapons, the unfriendly desert existence and the barbaric nature of the Arabs, were all weaknesses that consolidated the Arabs’ power, under Lawrence’s leadership.
Caton, Steven Charles. Lawrence of Arabia: A Film’s Anthropology: Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1999. Print.
Dora, Veronica, Della. “The Rhetoric of Nostalgia: Postcolonial Alexandria between Uncanny Memories and Global Geographies” Cultural Geographies. Vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 207 – 236. 2006. Print.
Eidinow, Esther. Luck, Fate and Fortune: Antiquity and Its Legacy. Londin: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd. 2011. Print.
Lean, David. Lawrence of Arabia. Horizon Pictures. 1962. Film.
Messenger, Charles. Reader’s Guide to Military History. New York: Fitzory Dearbon Publishers. 2013. Print.
Rockwell, John. The New York Times the Times of the Sixties. New York: New York Times. 2014. Print.
Tuck, Christopher. Understanding Land Warfare. New York: Routledge. 2014. Print.
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