Wednesday, November 15, 2006
A HYMN TO THE HUMAN SPIRIT
“I BELIEVE GOD MADE ME FOR A PURPOSE, BUT HE ALSO MADE ME FAST”
Chariots of Fire is one of my all-time favorite films. It tells a story about athletic achievement and inspiration. The film approaches sporting competition in a unique manner. Unlike the commercialized views of athletics, Chariots of Fire presents athletics in a spiritual and scared manner. The two main characters, Ben Cross and Ian Charleson are serious, British runners. The film doesn’t focus on a competitive battle between the two, but rather on how their hard work, devotion and pride in running brings them together. The story avoids competition between the two and allows for a narrative of personal and religious obstacles. Intertwined between their distinct stories, running provides a powerful life force. It seems that whenever Ben Cross and Ian Charleson run they achieve an out of body experience. The famous opening and closing scenes in the film act as its timeless image. Young athletes are seen running along the St. Andrew’s coastline. Dressed in nothing but white, they blaze across the screen. The music is what genuinely escalates this film’s inspirational power. Vangelis’ electronic score elevates the men running through the surf and makes them appear as if they are running on clouds.
A British film, Chariots of Fire was produced in 1981, and won an Academy Award for best picture in the same year. Written by Colin Welland and directed by Hugh Hudson, the story revolves around British runners who are getting ready for the 1924 Olympic games in Paris. On their path they encounter religious and political turmoil that they must reconcile before Olympic competition. In the end, both men win Olympic gold in different events. However, the narrative is not what captures my attention with this film.
I found the film deeply inspirational. Having participated in athletics all my life, I enjoyed the unorthodox approach the directors used to make the film. I first watched this film while studying at Syracuse University during a summer in between my junior and senior year of high school. I remember being inspired by the music to do push-ups in my dorm room. I know I sound strange but my favorite films are those that truly influence me and this is one of them.
On a historical note, the film took its title from William Blake’s poem “And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time”.
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my Arrows of Desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my Chariots of Fire!
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