In a few days, the 1962 grand epic film “Lawrence of Arabia” by David Lean, and starring Peter O’Toole and a cast of huge names (Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, and Arthur Kennedy), will be re-released in an all new digitized format. This movie is not only celebrating its 50th anniversary, but also celebrates the life of one of the amazing people in history.
Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in 1888; he was the son of a Lord but his father never married his mother. As World War I unfolded across Europe, there was an equally intense conflict in the Middle East, particularly centered in Arabia, Syria and Turkey. Lawrence, who had spent his early professional life as an archeologist in that geographical area, found himself as a lieutenant in the British army in the position of cartographer in Cairo. Through his archeological studies, he had also become conversant with several Arabian languages and dialects, and in 1916 was publishing an Arabic newspaper through which he tried to gain attention to the Arab struggles for freedom, not only from the Turks but from the British also.
T. E. Lawrence had a definite distaste for the limelight and for bloodshed; however, his role in the Arab Revolt covered him with both on a daily basis. He was a most reluctant hero.
During this war, Lawrence kept a journal of his thoughts and observations, and eventually published them in a book called “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” which was finally published 1926.
In 2009, after having read Seven Pillars for a second time, I was impressed with Lawrence’s use of imagery and poetic language. In homage to the Seven Pillars of the title, I chose seven particularly beautiful phrases from the text and composed instrumental music to express each short segment:
- Silences of Stars
- Off the Pilgrim Road
- Granite Spires
- The Mirage Had Begun to Dance
- The Hallowed Ground Re-echoed
- Circle Beyond Circle
- Last light of the West/Dance of the Sunbeams
These pieces, amounting to around 23 minutes of music, are collected on a CD which I also titled “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and are available through Amazon .
There is also a video presentation of section 2: Off the Pilgrim Road, on Youtube .
And although the film is somewhat fictionalized, it is amazing how much of Lawrence’s writing, and some of his dialog, are included in the context of the film. If you haven’t seen it, go see it (or get it when it’s released on DVD. If you know the film, now is a good time to watch it again.