The Cycle of the Hero’s Journey: Part 1

In an interview I watched from my  Blu-ray copy of the 50th Anniversary Edition of Lawrence of Arabia; entitled: Peter O’Toole Revisits Lawrence of Arabia. Director David Lean had a major (epiphany) discussion on the scene of the “White Robes” with Peter O’Toole. He says “Pete! There’s a whole.” To this remark, Peter O’Toole responds ” A whole? Where?” David explains ” There’s a whole in the script. Between putting the robes on, and meeting Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn).” David Lean then asks Peter O’Toole “What do you think a young man, who received these marvelous robes; would do if he were alone in the desert?”

David Lean entrusts Peter O’Toole to figure that scene. Peter O’Toole considers the scene. They take the shot unrehearsed/unscripted, and go for Peter O’Toole’s  improvisation. The result of this sequence soon becomes one pivotal metaphor to the movie.

Peter O’Toole enters the scene of the sand pit; he does what he believes any man alone in the desert would do? In his interview, Peter O’Toole explains that his idea for the scene/ his answer to David Lean’s question is…. “The Knife”. In the scene Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) picks up his knife, releasing the blade from it scabbard; he lifts the blade, looks into it and sees his reflection. Off set he says he could hear Lean’s admiration “Clever Boy”. Lean soon asks O’Toole to repeat this same act once again, in the battle sequence of the Turks; (Lawrence’s revenge after his Ordeal with the Inmost Cave at Damascus): in this scene we begin to see the change in his character; depicted by his famous battle cry “No Prisoners! No Prisoners!”

Lawrence marches to the battlefield relishing the deed of murder and revenge; for his ill-treatment in Damascus. After the carnage of warfare is over; we see Lawrence (close-up shot); he is traumatically exhausted; it is this scene in which the metaphor of the knife; interplay.  Lawrence lifts the knife and again looks into it and sees his own reflection. From the scene with the White Robes, to his revenge of Damascus. We begin to see a change in our hero’s character arc; a twist to his ego, claims him as our anti-hero.

O’Toole explains his conception between these two analogues: The scene of the White Robes“Had come from this touch of wedding, touch of first communication and touch of frisky boy; a touch of all these things.” Battle/ revenge scene: “Innocence is wronged in killing. His innocence is gone!”

O’Toole’s overview of Lawrence’s character:

  • He never fitted into the Oxford Academic
  • He never fitted military world
  • He use to forget he had his uniform on
  • He was hopelessly uncomfortable in an army uniform.

Here we can examine Lawrence’s character as a ever challenging concept.

A pinnacle challenge dawning the moral status of the character is his ever increasing Ordeal (or rather dream) to unite; so he pushes to extremes.

Originally the ending was to be the motorbike scene, but, director David Lean cut the scene, rearranging it to the beginning of the picture. This was a very interesting direction; as it now creates another metaphor (a team member brought up) which was depicted in the warning sign: “Warning Danger Ahead!” This could be debated as a pinnacle metaphor that I believe, breaks down the entire Hero’s Journey of Lawrence. As he races through the quaint British county lane; he undertakes many bends; in mid swing he gets over his head and begins to rev-up the juice of his motorcycle; finally he faces a collision ahead; wheeled out of control, and falls into a ditch.

The metaphor is that,  Lawrence’s journey will involve many “bends” (relating to his challenging character), “gets over his head” (at some point in the “Special World” fame overcomes his persona, and Lawrence believes himself a “crusader” (for the Turks) this can be clearly seen in the scene of entering Damascus: Lawrence and Ali enter Damascus, Lawrence prances around believing he can pass for an Arab, the plan is so he can find a way to formal introduce himself to the Turkish Bey (Jose Ferrer).

There was one final scene (of O’Toole’s);  David Lean was troubled with: this was on the stages of the editing process – Lawrence steps off the armoured car. David discusses this with Peter and says: “You stepped off the car too clumsy… I want it to be graceful.”

To solve the problem, Love Cutting was used…. the scene as we (the audience) know is: Lawrence steps off the armoured car….. there’s a cut to Anthony Quayle’s face…. then by the time the camera comes back clumsiness has gone. And it is just a graceful decent.


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