No doubt that there are still amazing athletes competing all over the world today, but lately it seems that we aren’t told about the positive attributes of athletes today as much as we hear about the scandalous behaviors some take part in. Their vast range of offences are all over the news, yet they still play and have competitive salaries. Sadly, even if these athletes have not been model citizens, the younger generations will still idolize them. Chariots of Fire tells the story of athletes truly worth of praise. One puts his personal frustrations to a positive outlet in his running, the other has such a strong conviction of faith he’s unwilling to compromise his beliefs for his sport. Not even for king and country.
Directed by Hugh Hudson, the film is based on a true story of two British runners who competed in the 1924 Olympic games in Paris. Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) is a Jew studying at Cambridge, but doesn’t because of his class and race, is often singled out. Running becomes a compulsion for him, a way to prove himself in Cambridge where he is constantly a Jew first. Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) is a Scottish missionary who’s looking for his best attribute to please God. That happens to be running. In their first race together, Harold loses to Eric, which pushes him to hire a professional trainer, Sam Mussabini (Ian Holm) who helps Harold’s technique and his mind set. Both runners go on to compete in the Olympic games, but Eric is scheduled to race on a Sunday. Because of his faith, he simply refuses to race then, even with pressure coming from the Olympic committee and the Prince of Wales (David Yelland).
I really enjoyed the bits of training scenes edited in. There’s very little dialogue here, we simply watch and understand what each exercise means. Harold need to learn to be lighter on his feet, and pace his strides correctly. Running on sand is perfect for learning both of those techniques. One of my favorite moments was when Mussabini sets up hurdles for Harold to jump, each with a glass of champagne on them. The objective is clear, simple and classy.
What people remember most about Chariots of Fire is the iconic music and image of the young men running through the surf on the beach. It really is a wonderful moment, worthy of starting the film and bringing it to an end. At the beginning I had ideas of athleticism, competition and running toward Olympic dreams. What I saw at the end was a moving portrait of model young men full of unrelenting honor and integrity. There must be no more celebrated moment than to be held up after winning an Olympic event in front of your loved ones, knowing that you have held strong to your ideals and have made them proud.
“You can praise God by peeling a spud if you peel it to perfection. Don’t compromise. Compromise is a language of the devil. Run in God’s name and let the world stand back and in wonder.”