Epic Film of The Wind and The Lion
The Wind and The Lion
Jerry Goldsmith's Excellent Score
1904 Tangier, Morocco
This is how the film, The Wind and the Lion begins. Overlooking the city of Tangier is the stately home of Mrs. Eden Pedercaris, a widow who consistently proves she is able to take care of herself. Mrs. Pedercaris played by Candice Bergen provides the role with grace and perseverance. From her first appearance on screen telling her guest at lunch, Sir Joseph, the proper etiquette of wine dictating the choice of food, even with the scandalous choice of a red Bordeaux at lunch, the audience knows that she knows her own mind and is not afraid to break social protocol occasionally. Her two children, William and Jennifer, play in the garden when they hear a shout from the house. One of the houseboys walks out with the wine and collapses on the table showing a knife in his back. Men on horseback, dressed in Muslim robes jump through the garden gates and mayhem ensues. Sir Joseph and the male servants are murdered. An extra side note Sir Joseph played by Billy Williams was also the film's cinematographer. Mrs. Pedecaris and her children are snatched by the Berber horsemen and led to a fountain where a man sits by the fountain waiting for them.
The music softens from the rushed horns, frantic cymbals, and pounding drums to lilting violins and the horns return to the same melody but only softly and grandly. The camera closes in on the face of Mulay Hamid El Raisuli, Lord of the Riff, Sultan of the Berbers, last of the Barbary Pirates, portrayed by Sean Connery. It is an understatement that Hollywood tends to use actors that will encourage audience attendance and therefore a profit without finding actors that are the nationality let alone good actors. So the question remains after the initial skepticism of a Scotsman playing an Arab, does Sean Connery succeed at portraying the Lord of the Riff, Sultan of the Berbers, last of the Barbary Pirates, El Raisuli? Absolutely!!
Connery is an actor that shows much diversity in his roles. Most actors could not play James Bond, El Raisuli, Daniel Dravot, Jim Malone, Marko Ramius, Juan Sanchez Villa- Lobos Ramirez, and Colonel Arbuthnot. (Let's see if someone can name all the films of these characters...) As El Raisuli, Connery displays the Middle East perspective with clarity and honor. El Raisuli in the film is determined and arrogant, but he is never unfaithful to his or Islam's virtues. Every action has a purpose. El Raisuli's kidnapping of Mrs. Pedecaris and her children is simply to embarrass his nephew the sultan of Morocco, and his brother the Bashaw of Tangier. Ultimately Raisuli's main purpose is to show the warring European powers that he and his followers will fight to for their autonomy.
The Western audiences views for perhaps the first time, the Arab world before World War I and its' followed parceling of land to European powers. As El Raisuli is the eastern protagonist, twenty-sixth President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) is the western protagonist. Keith also does a spectacular job as T.R. Throughout the film the audience views his endless energy for outdoor exploits and his uncanny understanding of the American spirit as occasionally 'reckless and daring.' Both men represent strength and courage to fight for their beliefs and way of life. El Raisuli fights for his lost world that diminishes every day and Roosevelt fights for his emerging world. At this time the U.S. was not a superpower and would not become one until after World War II. El Raisuli and the other Muslim leaders were quickly losing their autonomy but one of the main points of the film is to show that they are like lions fighting back against an emerging wind from the west.
John Milius, the writer and director of the film read about an incident during T.R.'s first term as president where Mulay Hamid El Raisuli did kidnap an American expatriate Ion Pedecaris and an Englishman Cromwell Varley. T.R. wanted the Moroccan government to intercede. The Moroccan government only acquiesced when T.R. sent the U.S. Navy to the coast of Tangier, Morocco to 'speak softly and carry a big stick.' The U.S. Navy never set foot on Morocco and yet the the problem was resolved just by showing that T.R. could back up his threat with force. From learning about this incident Milius created the story of 'The Wind and the Lion' changing Ion Pedecaris to Eden Pedecaris and adding a little bit of romance between Mrs. Pedecaris and El Raisuli. The dialogue is smart and functions in its actual decade of the early 1900s rather than the 1970s when it was written. The film has everything you can ask of a film with adventure, battles, romance, intrigue, and comedy. Just try not to smile when El Raisuli mutters to himself, "Mrs. Pedecaris you're a great deal of trouble!"
By the end as El Raisuli and the Shariff Wazan watch the sunset and reflect on their adventure and realize that the life they had known is forever gone, the viewer feels the same bittersweet nostalgia for the past while also embracing the belief that fighting for those virtues was worth the losing battle. To end this long review I write out the letter than El Raisuli writes to T.R. which is one of the most stirring speeches ever on film.
"You are like the Wind and I like the Lion. You form the Tempest. The sand stings my eyes and the Ground is parched. I roar in defiance but you do not hear. But between us there is a difference. I, like the Lion, must remain in my place. While you like the wind will never know yours."