WHAT MAKES LIDDELL AND ABRAHAMS RUN...
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 03/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a beautiful film, well directed by Hugh Hudson in his theatrical film debut. It features the true life story of two Olympic runners, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), who ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Olympic Games and brought home the Gold.
The film tells the story of these two individuals, who are as different from each other as different can be, and explores their personal drive and reasons for running. Eric Liddell is a staunch Scot and a fervid Presbyterian (He would put John Knox to shame!). The son of a missionary and himself a missionary by avocation, he runs because "God made him fast for a reason". His running is a reconciliation of his faith and his passion, which is running. He runs for the glory of God. His faith always remains constant and pre-eminent in his life. His devotion to it causes some controversy during the Olympics, as a consequence of the stance he takes when he discovers that the preliminary mete for the 200 metre race would be held on a Sunday. Liddell simply refuses to run on the Sabbath! Luckily for Great Britain, Lord Andrew Lindsay (Nigel Havers), a gentleman and fellow competitor, graciously steps in and, as he had already won a gold medal in the hurdles, gives him his place in the 400 metre dash, which would take place on a Thursday. This would never happen today in the dog eat dog world of competitive sports, much less in the Olympics of today!
Harold Abrahams is completely different. A secular Jew and Cambridge scholar, he studies in the bastion of upper crust British society, struggling to fit in but always remaining the proverbial outsider. He has a passion for running that is motivated by his passion for winning. In his world, God has nothing to do with it. Winning is merely an affirmation of himself in a world that he believes thinks less of him because he is a Jew. Consequently, his desire to win is superceded only by his fear of losing. When two Cambridge dons, the Master of Trinity, played by the late John Gielgud, along with the Master of Caius, meet with Abrahams, they are concerned that his hiring of a personal professional trainer, Sam Mussabini (Ian Holm), to help him with his running is not quite in keeping with the amateur tradition of the Cambridge gentleman. Implicit in their criticism is an undercurrent of anti-Semitism, one to which Abrahams does not take kindly. It is that moment that defines what makes Abrahams run.
This is ultimately a story about faith. With Liddell, it is about his faith in God. With Abrahams, it is about his faith in himself. Both were propelled to Olympic glory by it. It is a story sublimely told, though a little slow at times. It is not an action type of sports movie. It speaks gently of a time long passed, when the Olympics was truly the bastion of amateurs. It is amazing to see track events of the Olympics of 1924 depicted in all their simplicity...no flash, no glitz, no gimmicks. The runners ran on dirt tracks. They all carried spades in which to dig their footholds for their starting "blocks", something that surprised me. This attention to detail permeates the entire film, and its evocation of a bygone era makes the film linger in one's memory long after it has ended.
Ian Charleson gives a notable performances as Eric Liddell, infusing him with a gentleness and purity of spirit that is compelling, while Ben Cross plays Harold Abrahams with an intensity and singularity of purpose that is riveting. Their stellar performances, as well as those given by the excellent supporting cast, coupled with exquisite cinematography and the excellent direction of Hugh Hudson, make this film worthy of its 1981 Academy Award for Best Picture. The beautiful and soaring, synthesized music of Vangelis also won an Academy Award and went on to become a number one hit in the pop charts in 1982."
With hope in our hearts and wings in our heels!
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 07/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The athletes of the British running team who went with hope in their hearts and wings in their heels in the VIII Olympiad in Paris in 1924 is the focus of this movie, but there's also the dynamics of what it means to be English, and the reconciliation of one's soul and religious convictions in the Modern Age. Three of them are students from Cambridge. There is the quiet and soft-spoken Aubrey Montague, Lord Andrew Lindsey, and Harold Abrahams. As the head of Caius (pronounced Keys) College tells them when they first attend in 1919, they are the first post-war generation who have inherited the dreams of a generation that perished on the fields of France, a generation embodying "goodness, zeal,...and intellectual promise."The two main athletes here are a contrast from one another. One is Harold Abrahams, a Jew who wants to be seen as English as the fellow next to him. Hence his enrolling in all these clubs and fraternities in Caius College, from track, tennis, and even the Gilbert and Sullivan glee club-he wants to enter the Christian, Anglo-Saxon corridors of power, i.e. the old school tie. He succeeds in getting to an English girl in the form of Sybil Gordon, who doesn't mind he's Jewish. He can run like the wind, and nothing would fulfill his dream of being English more than winning so he'll be accepted, but he's so driven, hinging so much of his success on his winning, that he acts like its his own funeral when he loses in a race. He engages Sam Mussabini, a private and professional coach, which is contrary to the implied rules of Cambridge. When the heads of Trinity House and Caius House, (Sir John Gielgud and Lindsay Anderson) use their prep-school mentality to chastise him, saying Cambridge prided itself on the amateur attitude as opposed to the professional, and an esprit de Corps as opposed to individual glory, Abrahams tells them off.Scottish Eric Liddle, on the other hand, is a missionary born in China, who plans to return there to continue God's work, but the "muscular Christian" runs like a wild animal. With religion as a metaphor, he compares faith to running a race, describing the energy of the soul, the elation of breaking that tape, but he says that the power comes from within. "If you commit yourself to the love of Jesus Christ-that is how you win a straight race." To win is to honour God, and the gift he was given. His faith is tested twice, between the missionary work and running, and his respect for God and running on the Sabbath. He's clearly more Victorian, but also a Scot, choosing God over country instead of the more secular British. But will his faith help him triumph over favoured Americans Jackson Scholz and Charles Paddock?The slow-mo shots of the running athletes, the looks of elation, the disappointment of those who didn't qualify shows the various reactions of the soul. And New Age composer Vangelis Pathaniossou made his mark with his score, during the races and the scenes of Americans training, but especially the moving main theme that opens and closes the movie as the athletes are running along the ocean shore. This sequence itself is repeated twice, once where we know nothing about these athletes on who the cameras pan in on, but by the end, when the camera does its work, we know these people better, and they have names, as the credits identify actor and role. This was an early role for Nicholas Farrell (Montague), who was Horatio in Branagh's Hamlet. But Ben Cross as the driven Abrahams, Ian Charleson as the debonair blond Christian Liddell, Nigel Havers as Lindsay, Ian Holm (Mussabini), and Alice Krige (Sybil) do well. And yes, the Head Porter at Caius College is Richard Griffiths, best known as Harry Potter's Uncle Vernon, and quite thinner too.As the winner of four Oscars including Best Picture, Chariots Of Fire remains an unpretentious film where the finish line is a moral, spiritual, and of course a physical goal, and how one must be true to oneself to reach that goal."
The BEST film of the 80's/The WORST DVD of the century!
John H. Blankenship | Plano, Texas | 06/08/2000
(1 out of 5 stars)
"It is a DISGRACE that Warners would treat a BEST PICTURE winner in this fashion. Why the poor transfer to DVD? Why not put the film onto DVD in its original aspect ratio (widescreen), as it was meant to be seen? Both The Sting (Universal) and Driving Miss Daisy (also Warners) are two other best picture winners which received the same sorry treatment. I will NEVER buy the DVD of this EXCELLENT film until a proper release is given."
"Compromise is the Language of the Devil."
Bernard Chapin | CHICAGO! USA | 07/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Chariots of Fire, no matter what I view in the future, will always be in my Top 10 list of movies. The setting, the actors, and the plot are incomparable. However, what I treasure the most are the values intrinsic to the tale. How often does film concern infidelity, murder, hatred, deceit or the pathological need to dominate others? Well over 80 percent of the time I would guess, but here, in this masterwork, man is depicted at his finest. In Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, we are presented with exemplars of our species. These are the adults you dreamed of being when you were a small child. Their lives showcase a grandeur seldom seen in our own.
The film is set in the years immediately following the first world war, when feelings of grief and despair were ubiquitous. Upon their arrival at Cambridge, Abrahams and Montague are assisted by two former wounded soldiers, and one of them could best be described as "mutilated." Such a fate, the two young athletes were quite lucky not to have shared.
Societies that experienced the caldrons of the Somme and Paschendale were not as quick to dismiss the existence of God as we are today with our spoiled affluence and inflated life expectancies. To be saved from the carnage raging around you is not something to take lightly. Given the solemnity of their era, the seriousness and devotion integral to Liddell and Abrahams is not surprising. Competition was undertaken for more important reasons than money or fame.
Eric Liddell eventually concludes that missionary work in China will have to wait until he fulfills his athletic promise. He believes that God did not give out gifts without a purpose. The Lord's intention was that what Liddell was given must be used. Eric felt "God's pride" as he ran and never forgot who gave him the power he possessed. A decision that would mean nothing to most of us (running on the Sabbath) is not one he can even consider undertaking. For Liddell, God must come before country, king, and personal glory.
For Abrahams, his drive stems from the alienation he feels from being a Jewish outsider in Christian England. His goal was to "run them off their feet" and conquer who he views to be his oppressors. He does not run for pleasure; he competes only to win. His story is quite compelling. Abrahams' relationship with his coach, the also alienated Sam Mussabini, is intense and the bonds between them are nearly familial. Indeed, during what I regard as the most touching scene in the film, as Mussabini gazes at Olympic Stadium, and then stumbles to his bed, he mutters, "Harold, my son."
There's no sex, violence, or car chases in this movie. All that Chariots of Fire can offer is a depiction of the nobility of man. It is an extraordinary celebration of the forgotten values of chivalry, friendship, brotherhood, duty, and that the fact that God undoubtedly takes a direct interest in our lives on His earth."