Chariots of Fire
This is a movie that has a great many running scenes. It is also a movie about British class distinctions in the years after World War I. Years in which the establishment was trying to piece itself back together after the carnage in France.
It is about two outsiders, a Scot who is the son of missionaries in China. And a Jew whose father is an immigrant from Lithuania. And it is about how both of them use running as a means of asserting their dignity. However, it is about more than them.
And a lot of this film’s greatness is hard to put into words. “Chariots of Fire” creates deep feelings among many members of its audiences. And it does that not so much with its story or even its characters as with particular moments that are very sharply seen and heard.
We have seen, in photography, that pays serious attention to the authentic look of a human face during stress, pain, defeat, victory, and joy.
Who composed chariots of fire?
In one of the most remarkable soundtracks of any film in a long time, I heard with song and soundtrack by the Greek composer Vangelis Papathanassiou.
His compositions for “Chariots of Fire” are as evocative and as suited to the material as the different.
However, perfectly matched scores of such films as “The Third Man” and “Zorba the Greek.” The music establishes the tone for the movie.
This was one of nostalgia when two young and naturally gifted British athletes ran fast enough to bring home medals from the 1924 Paris Olympics?
Nostalgia is an essential aspect of the film. Which opens with a 1979 memorial service for one of the men, Harold Abrahams, and then flashes back sixty years to his first day at Cambridge University.
We are soon introduced to the film’s other central character, the Scotsman Eric Liddell.
The film’s underlying point of view is a poignant one: These men were once young, fast, and robust. And they won glory on the sports field. However, now they are dead, and we see them as figures from long ago.
What do Chariots of Fire Mean?
The film’s title was inspired by the line, “Bring me my chariot of fire,” from the William Blake poem adapted into the popular British hymn “Jerusalem”; the hymn is heard at the end of the film.
Who Wrote Chariots of Fire?
Colin Welland wrote the screenplay for Chariots of Fire (1981). He won the award for best original screenplay at the 1982 Academy Awards.
Are Chariots of Fire on Net Flix?
It can be watched on Net Flix in most countries here.
Would you consider Chariots of Fire to be a Christian or faith-based movie? I’ve heard many say yes.
Oddly enough, I saw this question in my feed while listening to an orchestral arrangement of Vangelis’ title score. I love “Chariots of Fire”; it’s a great, inspiring movie! I must also admit that I am very nostalgic for the era in which and made it: good, decent, compassionate. It was a simpler time.
Chariots of Fire is a movie that compares three athletes and their motivations while they take their personal journeys to the 1924 Olympic games: Eric Liddell, Harold Abrahams, and Lord Lindsay. Liddell and Abrahams are named after real people in history, while Lord Lindsay, who is the foil for the other two, is based on a composite of two different characters. Abrahams also has a coach with a significant role.
Liddell is a Scottish Presbyterian, a man that C.S. Lewis would like—a man determined to show the world a “muscular Christianity.” He is training to be a missionary, but in his spare time, he runs. And he catches flack for it from others who think that his running is taking him away from God. But Liddell argues very eloquently that his running is an expression of God’s grace and power.
Liddell runs into a dilemma, though: his most important race has been scheduled for Sunday, or the “sabbath,” as he (somewhat ironically) calls it. On principle, he won’t run, drawing the ire of the patriotic, curmudgeonly, old lord in charge of the British team, who proclaims that in his day it was “King first and God second!” “And the War to End Wars bitterly proved your point,” rejoins the prince. When Liddell ends out winning a substituted race on a different day, we hear biblical quotations from Isaiah 40: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings, like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.”
Liddell’s story is a call to remember something transcendent about “our mission” down here. It’s also a celebration of virtue and principle. What it is not is an endorsement of evangelical Christianity, with all its claims to exclusivism.
And that’s because Liddell’s story is contrasted sharply with the story of Harold Abrahams. Abrahams is the son of a Jewish immigrant family in eastern Europe. Why is he running? Put simply; he’s running out of sheer fury at the English establishment that politely allows him to exist within society, but always on the margins, always on the outside.
Abrahams is a much more worldly character than the more ascetic Liddell. He socializes at parties; he joins university clubs; he attends drama performances, at one of which he falls in love with a pretty actress who is destined to be the love of his life. On their first date, he allows her to order for him, and she, not realizing that he is Jewish, orders pork.
The scene is played for laughs, but such is not the case for the crusty leaders of Oxbridge who discriminate against Abrahams in various ways and who also object strongly to his hiring of a coach because that renders him no longer an “amateur.” “A different God,” they say, “a different mountain” about the Old Testament picture of Mount Sinai where Moses gave the Law to his people, rather than the “Christian” Mount of Olives where Jesus gave his sermon known as “The Beatitudes.”
Abrahams’s story is not presented as being “less” than Liddell’s, although it is Liddell’s race that is shown at the climax (while Abrahams gets the final scene). There is no suggestion in the movie that Abrahams should convert to Christianity. No: the two characters are shown in terms of the very personal situations that drive them with such ferocity.
In contrast to Abrahams is the character of Lord Lindsay, an aristocratic gentleman of impeccable manners. Lindsay has a large, beautiful estate with gorgeous grounds and servants. Lindsay then is a member of the establishment, but, being young, he has none of the prejudices that affect the senior ranks of the Oxbridge establishment. And of course, because he lacks the agony inside him, propels Abrahams or the religious “calling” that Liddell experiences, he doesn’t get a gold medal as the other two do. For him, the whole race is more of a hobby. While he doesn’t win gold, he remains very likable.
There is one more character who needs to be mentioned: Abrahams’ coach: Sam Mussabini. It is this coach that the elderly university administrators object to so strongly. They say, accusingly, something along the lines of “He’s half Italian” to Abrahams, who responds, “he’s half Arab!” And, of course, we laugh, but Mussabini is not a man who laughs. He’s the best coach globally, but his race and possibly his religion mark him as an outsider. His partnership with Abrahams against the WASP-ish establishment of England will prove fruitful and satisfying to both.
I believe that Abrahams and Mussabini’s angst is a reflection to some extent of the struggle of the Executive Producer, Dodi al-Fayed, better known as the boyfriend of Princess Diana, but whose family, despite owning Harrods, was also not fully welcome in the English establishment.
As I see it, the movie is about welcoming others who are different from us into society. Liddell is depicted as being far more religious than the other characters; that marks him as different. Abrahams is a Jewish man who wants to be known as “an Englishman” who loves Gilbert and Sullivan and plays for the team, but he wants to be accepted for who he is, too. And Musabini probably has a similar backstory; we can imagine him fighting prejudice based on his race (and possibly religion, although never specified). There is also a very brief but very moving shot of a black athlete on the American team. We see him only for a few seconds, but we can imagine what story he has; it would have to be the subject of a whole other movie!
Chariots of Fire is also a story about patriotism, after all, for all three athletes are representing Britain in the Olympic games. The glory that they win will be for them, but it will also be for their nation. But this is a patriotism that has been tempered by the aftermath of WWI and its disastrous nationalism.
The two themes unite when we realize that the movie is a meditation on the experience of multiculturalism. Some members of the establishment, like Abrahams’ university administrators, barely tolerate “the other” in their midst (though they are quick to celebrate his triumph and take vicarious credit for it!); others, like Lord Lindsay, see people based on equality, ignoring differences of class and race and religion. And of course, the others—the Jew, the Middle-Eastern-Italian coach, and the religious Scots missionary—bring something positive to society, something that makes society better and greater—something to be proud of, despite the “growing pains” present as society adapts to diversity.
I think there’s something for everyone in Chariots of Fire. The movie certainly portrays faith extremely positively, even though it does not apply to faith dogmatic exceptionalism that says, “this way and no other!” It also touches on the experiences of racial and religious minorities. And it is, of course, a sports movie with a dash of romance and a fantastic electronic soundtrack. But to answer your question, I would say, no: the movie is not a faith-based movie or a Christian one, though Christian faith is celebrated on screen and in song (Blake’s English-patriotic hymn “Jerusalem” plays in the final scene).
I must admit that the movie, in some ways, has not aged well. Since Chariots was made, religious terrorism has spread too far too many places in the world. Regressive, fundamentalist teachings have resulted in seemingly more honor killings in the Middle East, women’s faces hidden behind burkas in Afghanistan, Buddhist monks who actually preach genocide against their Muslim neighbors in Myanmar, Hindu mobs who attack Muslims saying “Victory to Lord Ram,” and evangelical Christians in the US contributing greatly to climate change and to the geopolitical instabilities that threaten us all. And secular regimes have themselves become wary of religion, too.
So go ahead and enjoy the movie. See what motivates those wonderful characters, based, as they are, on historical people. Just don’t take all the faith bits as gospel truth.
Andrew was elected Vice President of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians in 2020 after being a member for 7 years.
He has worked as a PSC Consultant and Research Assistant from 2013-2015, Consultant, and Sprint Coach at Zamboanga Sports Academy from 2015-2017.
Current editor and chief of Pinoyathletics.info, and has recently done consultancy work for Ayala Corp evaluating the Track and Field Program.
Coaches Sprints, Middle and Jump events he is working towards his Level 3 Athletics Australia Coaching Certification in Sprints and Hurdles.
He can be contacted on [email protected]
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