Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia, The Movie and "It is written"

Peter O'Toole as lawrence and Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali.

Lawrence as painted by Augustus John.


In the 1962 movie, Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence (played by Peter O'toole), has convinced a bandof Arabic warriors to cross the Arabian Desert, to attack the Enemy port of Aqaba from the undefend rear.

The crossing is treacherous - searing heat in the "Sun's Anvil"; dust storms and swirling cyclones - an endless trek that exhausts and kills some of the men.  As they begin to reach the end of the desert, it is noticed that one of the camels is riderless.  Lawrence unhesitatingly insists on going back for the rider, Gasim.

Sherif Ali (played by Omar Sarif) says to Lawrence, "If you go back, you'll kill us all.  Gasim you have killed already."

Another man says, "Gasim's time is come, Lawrence.  It is written!"

Lawrence replies, "Nothing is written."

Sherif Ali says to Lawrence, "You will not be at Aqaba, English.  Go back, blasphemer!  But you will not be at Aqaba!"

Lawrence replies, "I shall be at Aqaba.  That is written...(He points at his head.)..in here!"

In a triumphant sequence, the heroic, courageous Lawrence retraces his steps, finds the half-dead Gasim (who has been wandering aimlessly), rescues him, and returns to the oasis/camp with Gasim clinging to his saddle.  The "Englishman" gives a penetrating, searing look at Ali, and before drinking from water offered to him, he defiantly and proudly repeats himself:

"Nothing is written."


Read about the courage of the Bedouin in about the year 1600 in Montaigne on fate.


Now comes the twist of fate which shows that Lawrence is after all an instrument in the hands of fate, and that indeed, "All is written":

In their camp the night before the attack on Aqaba's undefended landward side, a potentially divisive event occurs that could split the rival tribes into a bloody feud.  One of the Harith Arabs has murdered a man from the other tribe.  Only Lawrence, as a non-Arab neutral who stands above petty tribal rivalries and age-old blood feuds, can even-handedly execute the offender.

As the offender raises his head, Lawrence sees it is Gasim - the man whose life he saved in the Nefud desert.  With a look of shock, he cold-bloodedly fires all six shots from his pistol into Gasim's body.  The two rival chieftains exchange words about the just execution and the emotional uncertainty displayed by Lawrence:

Auda: What ails the Englishman?
Sherif: That man he killed was the man he brought out of the Nefud.
Auda: Ah, it was written then.  Better to have left him.
Sherif (to Lawrence): You gave life and you took it. The writing is still yours. (Lawrence throws the gun away in disgust.)

Gasim had been fated to die in the desert.  Lawrence had cheated fate by rescuing him, but in the end, it was only a short reprieve, and death came to Gasim as had been written.


A verse from The Rubaiyat of Omar khayyam, written about 1120 AD.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment