A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia
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|A Dangerous Man:
Lawrence After Arabia
Ralph Fiennes as T.E. Lawrence
|Directed by||Christopher Menaul|
|Produced by||Celia Bannerman|
|Written by||Tim Rose Price|
A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia is a British television film of 1992 depicting the experiences of T. E. Lawrence and Emir Feisal of the Hejaz at the Paris Peace Conference after the end of the First World War. One of the conference's many concerns was determining the fates of territories formerly under the rule of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The film stars Ralph Fiennes (in his first film role) as T. E. Lawrence, Alexander Siddig (then credited as Siddig El-Fadil) as Faisal, Denis Quilley as Lord Curzon, and Nicholas Jones as Lord Dyson. It was made by Anglia Films and Enigma Television, and was first screened on 18 April 1992 on the ITV network.
The film was produced in 1990, a year after David Lean's film epic, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), was re-released to cinemas. It serves as an unofficial sequel to that earlier film, as it depicts events that happened after the Great War.
The film goes further than its predecessor in showing the effects of revisionist historians. It demonstrates contemporary concerns about British and international politics and ethnic conflict. It also explores further Lawrence's enigmatic personality and suggests more openly his alleged homosexuality.
The film starts with a quotation from Lawrence's book Seven Pillars of Wisdom which is used to provide the title of the film:
"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream in the dark recesses of the night awake in the day to find all was vanity. But the dreamers of day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, and make it possible."
Faisal arrives at the post-war Paris Peace Conference of 1919 to claim Syria for Arab rule, after the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. He is delayed by French diplomats, uncertain of his intentions. Lawrence joins Faisal's negotiating staff despite attempts by the French and British to exclude the Arabs altogether. (The only country portrayed sympathetically is the United States, with Woodrow Wilson’s dictum to let populations decide for themselves, in terms of self-government for colonial and territorial areas). Lawrence defends Faisal’s claim to Syria by citing previous British undertakings to Faisal’s father in a "secret letter", as well as their joint triumphant march into Damascus against the Turks. Faisal's main demand at the conference is for Syria to be governed by Arabs. France has a stake there, however, and has made previous colonial agreements with Great Britain which complicate matters.
Lawrence's newly gained popularity after the recent Great War poses a further complication, as popular films promote him, a white European, as the "Uncrowned King of Arabia". The wartime friendship between him and Faisal is thereby strained. As negotiations reach a peak, Lawrence is called away to his dying father’s bedside. He arrives too late to see his father again alive and must leave too soon to see him buried.
Throughout the film, Lawrence is shown writing what would become his most lasting publication, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. As in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia and many biographies, the film suggests that Lawrence favours relationships with men over women. Ralph Fiennes plays Lawrence as hesitant in the public eye, smiling when forced to, knowing when to be hard in his negotiations, and completely alien to the world of women.
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- Racism: The film shows numerous scenes in which the European diplomats discriminate against the Arab envoy, going so far as to refuse to have them participate in the conference as an equitable partner (this is also because of politics). In one of the last scenes, an ANZAC officer (unnamed but meant to be General Harry Chauvel) states that he will not let "his victory" (the conquest of Damascus) be taken away by a band of "marauding tribesmen". At the end, after Lawrence sends a letter to a British newspaper promising independence to the Arabs, he is accused of having "betrayed his country and his race for heathen aliens."
- Politics: As hinted at the end of David Lean's film, European politicians would not do justice to the promises Lawrence made to Faisal during the Arab campaign. France emphasises her interests in Syria and denies the native Arabs governance over one of the areas the Allies had conquered. Moreover, while watching a workman handling petroleum, Lawrence makes a statement that has resonance today, "[I]t's all about oil."
- Identity and legitimacy: Lawrence was illegitimate, a fact known to his superiors and at least suspected by the media. His parents were never married, and the name "Lawrence" was assumed. Lawrence muses on this, noting that he has no real name, and that others will decide his identity, much as the powers who emerged from World War I will impose the borders and the identity of the Arab states.
- Homosexuality: T.E. Lawrence's alleged homosexuality is hinted at, when, during their encounters, Faisal and Lawrence behave quite tenderly towards one another. In a pivotal moment, when Lawrence tries to organise a last-ditch effort to save Faisal's claims, Mme. Dumont, a French envoy's wife, tries to seduce him. Lawrence states under a mixture of laughter and tears that he is "not capable of this task." Whether this is a moral stance or related to his sexuality is not explicitly stated. Immediately following, Lawrence is reported as having been mistaken for a pleasure-boy in Arabia by Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen (Jim Carter), another member of the Hejaz delegation. His sexual orientation is further suggested by his taking a bath in the officer's bath tub. Soon after A Dangerous Man was produced, however, Meinertzhagen's diary entries on Lawrence, including such alleged scenes as these, were proven to have been largely fabricated, and with malicious intent.
- Homages: Although it does not possess the visual grandeur of the earlier Lawrence, the film refers to images from David Lean's film. In a parallel to Lawrence's death by a road accident, he is shown driving a "borrowed" bike along a road and narrowly dodging two horse-riders. After Lawrence takes a bath, his face is seen fading beyond the vapour on the mirror. This is similar to Peter O'Toole's last scenes in the original, where he is shown in a mirror image, behind a curtain and a car's windscreen.
Awards and nominations
- International Emmys, 1992
- ″A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia″. Nothing is Written Film
- John J. O'Connor. ″Complex Lawrence Of Arabia″. The New York Times (6 May 1992)
- see Meinertzhagen's Diary Ruse: False Entries on T.E. Lawrence, 1995, chapter "The Paris Entries".
- IEMMY — Previous Award Winners. iemmys.tv
- International Emmy Awards — 1992. IMDb.com
- A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia at the Internet Movie Database
- A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia at the Allmovie
- Tony Scott. "Great Performances a Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia". Variety (5 May 1992)
- Chris Willman. "A Dangerous Man". Los Angeles Times (8 May 1992)
- A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia. DVD Talk