A few days ago I got done reading T.E. Lawrence's autobiographical account of his part in the Arab Revolt of the 1910's, it actually took me about two years of on and off reading. This of course has made me wonder about the movie again, since I haven't seen it in a long time. I already knew that it was inaccurate on some things, just from what I remember of the movie and what contrasts I found in Lawrence's own writing, but I had no idea just how terrible it actually was. I found a site dedicated to Lawrence and this examination of the movie: http://www.telstudies.org/discussion/film_tv_radio/lofa_or_sid_1.shtml
Holy shit. This is such an absurd misrepresentation of everyone involved in that war, and frankly I think it's a major insult to all those who died fighting in that war. Apparently the movie seems to claim that Lawrence was ignorant of what his superiors were planning to do with Arabia for much of the war, while anyone who's read the book can't possibly forget the constant mentions of Lawrence's feelings of guilt for being a fraud, while himself hoping that he could help Feisal and the Arabs outdo the expectations of the British and have their own lands. I mean, there are entire chapters where he goes on and on about how guilty he felt, constantly calling himself a fraud.
Also, this movie apparently makes him out to think that he's the shining hero of the revolt, and can somehow singlehandedly lead the way to victory. He did in fact think very highly of his concept of irregular and guerilla warfare, which he developed while sick for a few days (with dysentery I think it was) and left with nothing to do but think, but he made it clear to everyone that he represented Feisal, and made of point of preaching about the revolt and their leader Feisal wherever he went.
What surprised me the most reading this site is how about halfway through, all concern for historical fact is thrown out the window with the only things in common being the general facts that Lawrence and the Arabs moved north, and eventually took Damascus, ending the war.
However, I do have an issue with this part from the site:
"53 Butchery at Tafas
Lawrence portrayed as carried away by blood lust
Is seen shooting a Turkish soldier who has his hands up
Ali begs Lawrence to stop the butchery
Bentley appears and is shocked. Ali implies that Lawrence, not the Arabs, was responsible for the butchery. Bentley says 'Oh, you rotten man' - and takes a photo
All this is complete fiction."
After seeing the aftermath of the butchering of the village, Lawrence and the Arabs were indeed taken over with bloodlust, to have revenge against the retreating Turks who had done this. Lawrence sums it up pretty well: "We killed and killed, even blowing in the heads of the fallen and of the animals, as though their death and running blood could slake the agony in our brains." He also explicitly states that he and others even gunned down some Turks who tried to surrender, and when he found out that some of the Arabs, ignorant of his order to take no prisoners, had taken about 200 Turk prisoners, Lawrence ordered them to be gunned down as well.
And no, I'm pretty sure no one tried to pressure Lawrence into not killing them all at that point. Everyone was filled with bloodlust at what they saw. I get the impression that even those in the Arab forces who might not have liked the tribe that was killed might have cared more for the fact that these were Arabs being mercilessly butchered by Turks.
Of course, I can't remember how exactly it's depicted in the movie, so I don't know just how accurate it is.
Seriously, why can't people just make movies that are accurate? Why do they have to change everything? This movie is based on actual events, with actual people, and focusing on an actual man. Why change everything so that it bears almost no resemblance to reality? I understand that because of the limited medium of film, compromises have to be made, but this is just inexcusable to me. Now, I have to say that I haven't seen the movie in a while, and not since finishing the book, but if it's true that it doesn't show Lawrence's internal conflict over deceiving the Arabs, and instead shows him as someone totally self absorbed and thinking that he's the manifestation of the Arab Revolt, and that he alone somehow made the Arabs win, then this is simple character assassination.
By the way, if you were wondering about T. E. Lawrence's book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, I found it very interesting. I began reading it because I was just curious about what actually happened in that war, and what Arabia is actually like. It's very interesting to see what war is actually like, and his ideas on guerilla warfare are very interesting, and basically the foundation of terrorism really. At one point, he even stresses the need to "become terror itself", mostly talking about bombing railways, and how the Arabs can disappear into the wilderness of their home lands, so that the Turks would always be afraid of being attacked at any point, especially on the railways.
So I would recommend it.