Friday, November 23, 2012

'Chariots of Fire' Open Thread


  1. I loved the character studies in this show, really of all the major characters, their struggles and striving, both to compete against one another and the struggles they had with the society they lived in, the self-doubt each man faced, the perseverance of one of their number against the pressures of the nation's leadership to break his principles for "the greater good of the empire", the comradery of the young men, and ultimately the mutual respect and joy they shared with one another. Great story.

  2. Well, I just watched this again last night and really enjoyed it. In a special feature, the show's writer Collin Welland spoke of how he bagan to research the project back in 1978, and had gone to the national film archives and asked them "Do you have anything on Abrahams and Liddell, the lads who won gold medals at the 1924 Olympics?" and watching the footage of the men, as young men, strong and determined, racing ... he said to himself, and to them really, "Don't worry boys, we'll get it right." And he meant get right what happened, tell of their struggle, their committment to their sport, their desire to honor the striving, their willingness to stand up for what was right... and he did that for them.

    When I was at Gonzaga University I use to walk the halls of College Hall, and there forever frozen in time were the black and whites of an elite distance runner. It was 1920 something, and the handsome young man with flowing blond hair ran like the wind. In those days I was a distance runner for the school myself. I felt a kinship with him across all that time, and I knew the only person in the school that knew or cared about him... was me. It was like I could go into those old pictures, see him there at the meets and be a part of the world he lived in. This movie reminds me of those days in some ways.

    The picture opens at the funeral of Harold Abrahams, England's finest track athlete in the early twenties, and there is Lord Lindsey, giving his eulogie, speaking of "young" Aubrey Montague, who by then was an old man, and how there were now only two of them who could close their eyes and bring back a time when they ran like the wind, ".. with hope in their hearts, and wings on their heels." And with that we are drawn in, taken back... and there they are, young men, running with determination, hope and joy...

  3. When Collin Welland began to work on the project, he put an advertisement in the London papers asking for any one with any recollection of the events to come speak with him. Arriving at his doorstep a week later was a box of letters written by Aubrey Montague. Aubrey was intimately familiar with all the main characters, and his letters to home greatly informed Welland's writing. It wasn't until years later that Nichlas Farrell, who played Aubrey Montague in the movie, discovered that the letters he had been reading were not fictional, but were the actual letters of one of the participants. Aubrey Montague competed in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, finishing fifth in the Steeple Chase.

  4. There is something about these English movies that creates a stillness, a sort of calm even in the more active scenes. I'm not sure why it is, maybe a difference in the asthetic regarding background busy-ness, maybe just the quieter environments where so many period pieces are set. But this was a perfect movie for my current degree of frazzled-ness. Enough action, enough human drama to make it interesting and engaging, and so much visual beauty -- the architecture and the interiors of the university, the beautiful clothing, the close-ups of Alice Krige (pretty, pretty), the scenery. (Scotland was particularly lovely, and I love the long shots of the beach when are the Olympians are training.)

    (Drat. More later…)

  5. I can't believe i t has been thirty years since I saw Chariots of Fire in the theater (I was beginning to think it would be another thirty before I got to add my Comments...), and I am awfully glad to have seen it again as a "grown-up." I have so much greater an appreciation for Eric Liddell's reluctance to return to the China mission without using the opportunity to "run for God" -- and I understand so much better his sister's fears that the distractions, and successes, of the world, would undermine the intentions he had for his life. Such a glorious vindication when a surprised press applauds the runner from Scotland for insisting on keeping the Sabbath. And I liked so much the reminder that God can use our any talent to help others find Him.

    And my take on Harold Abrahams, watching the movie now, makes me realize how unaware I was at twenty-something of how crippling the very methods and mechanisms we use to save ourselves can eventually become. When I saw it then, I was as impatient as Sybil -- well, more so, to tell the truth ;) -- with Harold's seemingly petulant reaction to losing his race with Liddell. But his athleticism had given him a weapon against the slights and sneers of any who viewed him with distaste for his Jewishness. They might presume themselves superior, but he would "run them off their feet." As he did, consistently. He had told Aubrey on their first meeting that he didn't know whether he couldn't stand being beaten, because he had never lost. Being the best in the race has become as much a part of him as the Jewishness he runs to vindicate -- and the loss to Liddell threatens his sense of who he at least as much as it leaves him disarmed before his detractors. He is at such a complete loss -- and it is so wonderful to see Sybil come back, meeting him in his distress, and helping him find a new vision.

    Abrahams ran to dominate his enemies; Liddell ran to draw others to God; Lindsay ran for the pure joy of it. I loved seeing his laughing delight, running with the others on the beach, joining Harold in the College Dash, always seeming, lively fellow though he was, to be most joyously alive when he was running.

    I'm so glad we watched this again!

  6. Very nicely said, Cath. I so agree - it was a great movie, and very much a pleasure to see it again, now being a tad older and wiser. Yes, I loved Sybil coming back to Harold to encourage him in his running, and his life. And I loved Harold's honesty with her over his anxiety and self-doubts. That's very hard for a man to do, but Harold possessed that kind of courage, to be self-reflective and honest, both with himself and with those dear to him.

    As to perspective across time, when I was younger I thought Harold's talk with Aubrey, while Sam was working over his muscles proir to the last sprint, I thought it was a "buck me up" talk to a runner who had tried and failed, but no, that was Harold being utterly honest. Harold was a man driven and on edge, and he truly admired the balance that a man like Aubrey Montague possessed. He envied him for it, had never known it himself, and wanted to make sure Aubrey knew that he was admired for being the man that he was. That was a good scene, one of many. Yes, it was good fun! Thanks so much for watching this with me!!

    Well young lady, I do believe we have time for a Christmas show before the season escapes us. What might be your pleasure?

  7. Regarding Harold's talk with Aubrey, I noticed that was at least the second time Harold talked very candidly with Aubrey about his personal demons -- I'm thinking of the earlier scene when Harold explains how the British distate for Jews is expressed subtly, like the “cold reluctance in a handshake.” I think it speaks very much to Aubrey's character, as he is never the dominant one in any situation, but his relative quiet obviously does not prevent him from forming deep attachements with his friends. A good listener, a caring listener, a lovely man it might have been easy to overlook among his dynamic colleagues.

    But to Christmas! I need to think about this a little. What kind of Christmas movie are we in the mood for? Does anybody have a craving? I have been getting caught up (finally!) on Downton Abbey, and I'm looking forward to watching the final (somewhat Christmas-y) episode. But that's just not the same!

  8. Ohhh.. Downton Abbey! I had almost forgot. You promised you'd tell me when you got there - so much to say! Okay, don't forget, keep me posted!

    But as to what to watch for a Christmassy show - it's your world, Cath!

  9. Oh my gosh I don't know what I've been thinking, it's so obvious. We should watch Miracle on 34th Street!