Aditya: Robert Beeland A HUNGER FOR DESOLATE PLACES: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, ORIENTALISM, AND ANTI-IMPERIALISM.

Beeland, Robert. A HUNGER FOR DESOLATE PLACES: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, ORIENTALISM, AND ANTI-IMPERIALISM. Http://sewanee.edu/. International and Global Studies 202: Islam and the West, 12 Dec. 2014. Web. 23 June 2016.

 

Beeland begins his paper with an overview of Lawrence and his exploits in Arabia. He believes that the film is cryptic and should be read beyond the overlying themes of a Biopic and stresses on the undertones on Anti-Imperialist views that the film eschews. “Lean illustrates Lawrence’s interests and passion regarding Arabia and, further, British interests in general, through an orientalist lens.” (Beeland 1). He cites Dennis Bingham and his book Whose Lives Are They Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre, in which Bingham believes that it is imperative that the film be viewed through, “Its orientalist perspective and its anti-colonial premise.” (Beeland 1).

Beeland believes that imagery and dialogue were pivotal in establishing Arabia as an exotic landscape where Lawrence’s conquests are to be made. He reiterates Said’s view of the depiction of Arabia; “A frank acknowledgement that it was a world elsewhere, apart from the ordinary attachments, sentiments, and values of our world in the West” (Beeland 2). To further expound on his viewing of Lawrence through a Postcolonial perspective, he says, “The scope of the film’s Orientalist perspective is even more apparent in its characters and dialogue. Lawrence of Arabia frequently posits its Arab characters as naïve, ignorant, and in dire need of British assistance. This “distillation of essential ideas about the Orient—its sensuality, its tendency to despotism, its aberrant mentality… its backwardness” places Lawrence in a Messianic 9 role.” (Beeland 3).

Beeland argues that the film only reinforces the western view that without the British, Arabia would crumble in the hands of the barbaric and uncivilized Arabs. Lean, he believes, through the film points out to Arab greatness culturally and historically through a dialogue between Prince Faisal and Lawrence in Faisal’s tent in one of the earlier scenes. “Faisal recounts the splendor of 14 the Andalusian city Cordova, where there were, “two miles of public lighting in the streets when London was a village.” (Beeland 4). Beeland argues that Lawrence the person might’ve been inherently opposed to the colonial mindset but one cannot ignore the fact that he himself is a product of said mindset, however noble his intentions.

Beeland believes that the film gives space for two inherently opposing ideologies to exist; Lawrence through his lofty yet noble ambitions and that of the colonial and native rulers, who are so much alike that it is hard for one to distinguish the two. Lean, he argues furthers his anti-colonial beliefs by contrasting the dialogues of two British Army officials. “First, Brighton insists to Prince Faisal during a conversation in Faisal’s tent that “British and Arab interests are one and the same.” Later, Allenby claims to Lawrence that “Britain has no interest in Arabia,” only to seize rule of Damascus from the ill-suited Arabs near the end of the film.” (Beeland 6).

Beeland ends his paper by disagreeing with Said’s view of viewing the film solely through an Orientalist lens and believes that it is hard to ignore the film’s Anti-Colonial stance. Beeland believes that the film brought into question the legitimacy of the entire colonial project by providing the standpoint of a critical insider who happens to be Lawrence.

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