Lord Jim (1965)

Lord Jim (1965), directed by Richard Brooks.


I've been a so-called coward and a so-called hero and there's not the thickness of a sheet of paper between them.

An earnest young First Officer in the merchant marines panics in a moment of terrible danger and is haunted by it for the rest of his life. Without even meaning to, he drifts into a chance at redemption by helping a remote Malay village fend off a slave-taking warlord. Can shame ever die?

It's natural to think of this as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on a much more modest scale, with notions of shame and honor brought out and discussed more openly. Peter O'Toole is again the obsessed, mad-eyed Englishman using other people's wars to exorcise his inner demons.

I see aspects now I didn't when I was young: Jim is a race traitor, letting down the European side and trying to lose himself in the Asian masses. And yet, by some iron law of imperial adventure stories, he instantly becomes leader of the village resistance, organizing them in ways they never could have done themselves.

Even as a kid it seemed odd to me that The General and The Girl were not played by Asian actors. I was a little less sure this time: Eli Wallach is supposed to be Chinese or Malay, right? He speaks with a sort-of-accent, but there are other Euro villains in the story, so maybe he also is a renegade. Lovely Daliah Lavi (last seen in The Whip and the Body (1963)) is supposed to be of mixed race, so casting can be flexible here.

Misc notes:

Available on Sony DVD-R, dual layer. It's a soft image. No subtitles. Aspect ratio is 2.20. I only saw TV versions before; at 2h34m is this cut more complete?