Director: David Lean
Writers: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson, T.E. Lawrence (writings)
Starring: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, José Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy
I know. It seems a crime to highlight one of the greatest movies ever made in the Penny Thoughts feature and not really discuss what makes it so good, but I’d really like to discuss something else. Don’t worry. I’m bound to watch it again someday. What I’d like to talk about is David 8 from the recent theatrical release “Prometheus”.
David is the artificial human on board the spaceship Prometheus in the new movie of the same name. He is obsesses over the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”. He even dyes his hair blonde so he looks eerily similar to Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence in this iconic film. He watches the movie and quotes it, but you never see him learning or reading about the real T.E. Lawrence. Upon my initial viewing, I thought this had something to do with the artifice of the dramatization of Lawrence’s life and how that related to the artifice of life that David led.
After seeing “Lawrence of Arabia” again, I think it’s not that simple. Lawrence was a bigger than life figure, at least that’s what he is in the movie. Like David, he doesn’t fit in very well with people, despite the fact he is meant to. Lawrence is a soldier who seems ill at ease in a uniform. David seems ill at ease as a human. Both characters strive to find their full potential. Both have savior complexes. Both see themselves as something like a God among men. Both learn otherwise.
David’s story in “Prometheus” seems to end a point similar to when the Turk played by Jose Ferrer captures Lawrence in that movie. David says something to the real god of man—I wonder just what, because I can’t see David finding any of the human requests worthy of his translation—and has his head ripped off for it. Lawrence is beaten and later confesses he would’ve told them anything they had wanted to know had they asked. The experience changes Lawrence. It brings out his savage nature. “Prometheus” ends before we see the full effects of David’s encounter with the Engineer. Perhaps in the next chapter, we will find that David has also come closer to realizing the extremes of human emotion, like Lawrence eventually did.