When it comes to harsh climates, the Arabian desert is perhaps the epitome of desolation. Deserts are generally pretty unforgiving as it is, but there just seems to be something with the Arabian desert that provides a greater challenge. After all, part of the reason that we’re looking for evidence of water on Mars is the same reason that deserts can be so dangerous: water means life. With no water, the sun beats down and scorches the earth to a cracked and barren wasteland. Not to mention that with no moisture to hold in the heat of the day, the nights can get extremely cold, letting every available joule of heat speed up into the icy blackness of space. It’s no wonder that the people who chose (or are required) to live in the Arabian desert have a certain amount of grit in their lives, both literally and metaphorically. This week’s two films highlight the people who have braved the desert and lived to tell their tales.
Length: 90 minutes / 1.5 hours
Unfortunately for those who are not thoroughly educated in geographic or socio-economical issues, whenever there is an event that takes place in the middle east, most think of the caricature presented in Aladdin. They think of sand dunes encroaching on city limits. They think of rich rulers and struggling citizens. They think of magical genies in caves. Well, now that I think about it, most of those might not be too far from the truth (except for that last one, obviously). The fact of the matter is that because a lot of people think of this film when they think of the middle east, it has caused a lot of controversy over the years. Still, that doesn’t mean that the challenges of living in the fictional Arabian town of Agrabah are any less daunting.
Aladdin is a bit of a unique story for Disney, because its main male protagonist is not a prince. In fact, he is the antithesis of a prince. He’s a street rat. An orphan who has to fend for himself despite all odds against him. And yet, he dreams of the palace life, just like Princess Jasmine dreams of a more common life. While this Mark Twain-ish subplot helps to bring some social commentary to the film, Aladdin eventually finds himself up against the elements of the Arabian desert in order to get the riches he’s desired for so long. And yet, through a turn of events, he’s given the opportunity to learn that wealth is but a mere mirage and that being true to oneself is perhaps the greatest treasure of all.
Lawrence of Arabia
Length: 216 minutes / 3.6 hours
Whenever people hear Lawrence of Arabia mentioned, most of them groan. This film is seen as an epic classic, which means that it’s long and it’s highly acclaimed by critics. Unfortunately, the casual movie watcher really doesn’t have the endurance for a movie like this. However, for those able to brave the almost 4 hour long film, the reward is definitely worth the time. In fact, for a film that is so long, the pacing is extremely good and the action really absorbs you into the story. Before you know, it you’re at the end credits, wondering how the time went by so fast. And yet, to bring us back on topic, enduring this film is nothing like enduring a hike across the Arabian desert alone.
Thomas Edward Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) was sent to Egypt to serve as an intelligence officer for the British during World War I. When he goes out to the front lines of the battles between the Arabs and the Turks, he learns of the Arabs’ struggle and joins their cause. In a plot that’s been seen many times since (read: Dances with Wolves, Avatar), Lawrence leads the Arabs into victory on many fronts. After fighting a Guerrilla war against the Turks, he eventually meets up with the British army to the north, where the Ottoman Empire can finally be destroyed. And yet, having spent so much time with the Arabs, Lawrence considers himself one of them, having dealt with the brutality of the Arabian desert.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 knights of the Arabian desert