Herzog Says Lawrence Of Arabia "Not That Good"
Receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Dubai International Film Festival, famed German director Werner Herzog ( Aguirre, the Wrath of God; Nosferatu; Cave of Forgotten Dreams ) has disparaged Lawrence of Arabia as "not really that good anymore." Herzog criticized the screenplay by Robert Bolt for depicting the Arab world as "very stupid." He added " Lawrence of Arabia doesn't portray the Arab world in a good way." Herzog's remarks may have come as a surprise to organizers of the DIFF, who selected Lawrence to kick off their first festival in 2004. Herzog said that for a forthcoming film he himself is educating himself about the Arab world -- "about the region, about Islam, about [the] Bedouin ... about the dignity of the Arabian world. This is something which you cannot learn from Lawrence of Arabia . It does not show what is true of today." (The film, however, does depict T.E. Lawrence, played by Peter O'Toole, doing precisely what Herzog says he himself is doing -- immersing himself in Arab culture.) In a December 1962 letter to director David Lean, published in Lawrence of Arabia, the 30th Anniversary Pictorial History (1992), by L. Robert Morris and Lawrence Raskin, Bolt told of receiving a phone call from a Muslim "Prince of some kind" who remarked that Lawrence "was the first film he had seen in which a Muslim people were accorded absolutely equal status with the whites, being neither sentimentalized nor belittled." Herzog, who fancies himself a "rogue" filmmaker, may also discover some aspects of Arab culture woefully restrictive for a Westerner. For example, in some areas of the region the films of Egyptian-born Omar Sharif, one of the stars of Lawrence, have long been banned because Sharif kissed Barbra Streisand, a Jew, in Funny Girl, and in 2005 a death fatwa was declared against Sharif after he appeared as St. Peter in an Italian film.