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My two favourite David Lean edits

I know, regular readers of The Skwib will be thinking: “what hell? This no funny!” (With the proper grammar, of course.) But with this new look, I’m also branching out with the blog. I’d like it to take in things that inspire my writing as much as they inspire laughter.

I should preface everything by saying I’ve never studied film, so I don’t know what all the technical terms are. These two scenes do inspire me though, and even if they’re not the kind of thing you can replicate in a prose fiction, the authorship of them is breathtaking. I love Lean’s ability to take human emotions and put them into massive contexts: nature, history, time. When you’re writing, everything can be grist for the mill.

lawrence and the match trick

This first edit comes from Lawrence of Arabia (1962), which won David Lean an Oscar for Best Director, and six other Academy Awards (including Editing, Cinematography and Score). The clip begins a bit earlier than it needs to — you could jump to the 1:00 minute mark to get the gist of the scene, and the edit is at 1:17. If you haven’t seen the movie, you may want to check out another scene first, for the context of what Lawrence is expected to do with the match.

I love the slight smile O’Toole gives the character as he’s about to blow out the match. (He was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.) It says so much about the character: “the desert is going to hurt much more than a match. What fun.”

And after the cut, everything just comes together so well — the gorgeous orange tones of the sunrise, the tension in the music as the sun slowly rises, to … boom, another cut of the desert in all it’s harsh glory. Genius.

And I’ll just let you enjoy this one, from Dr. Zhivago (1965):