“King of the Sand” film premiere review: Lawrence of Arabia demystified

Thursday, 12.09.2013

King of the Sand directed by Syrian Najdat Anzour

King of the Sand directed by Syrian Najdat Anzour

Levant TV’s exclusive review of the world premiere of King of the Sand (2013)

Lawrence of Arabia, demystified

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Good intentions are never enough assets for making great films, unless they are supported with a good flock of technique, narrative precision and visual storytelling. While the former element (good intention!) is absent in David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia, the exhilarating cinematic dexterity makes the film a master class in acting, composition and narrative. Lawrence, in spite of its historical inaccuracies, as well as not mentioning the role of Lawrence in the issue of Palestine, still, after 50 years, is widely remembered for showing the potentials of historical film, something to be relatively loyal to the events of the past and at the same time look contemporary. But this is hardly the case with the new Syrian film, King of the Sands, which is obviously inspired by Lawrence (even the film poster design is a copy), but share no technical brilliance of the 1962 film. However, one can argue that King of the Sands is truer to history than Lawrence, and even a good, important message is hiding behind it. Now the question is: Is cinema a place for direct, telegram-­‐like messages, with no sense of aesthetics? My answer is, firmly, a No. The King of the Sands tries to tell a taboo story of the Muslim world, that of the Saudi family -­‐ an imageless kingdom. The story is told in flashbacks, when King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman ben Faisal al-­‐ Saud’s activities is limited to lying on bed and deflowering virgins with his finger, and in between, he reminisces the rise of Saudi family and establishing the Saudi Arabia, with the help of Great Britain. Narrated mostly as an action film with gory scenes of extreme violence (which is supposed to show the brutality of the Saudis, but most of the time, because of its exploitive nature, has reverse effect), the King of the Sands is directed by Syrian Najdat Anzour, the son of one of the pioneers of Syrian cinema. His origins are in TV and that shows in the TV aesthetics of the films (many medium shots and close ups, sluggish rhythm, no progression in the story). As a matter of fact, the film might work better on home screens, rather than on the big screen, where it was ambitiously presented. Najdat Anzour doesn’t need to look at Hollywood films, or American TV movies for inspiration, he just need few hours of time, watching the films made by his fellow Aleppo born director, Moustapha Akkad, who has all the things that are missing in Anzour’s work.

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