I remember the release of Chariots of Fire so vividly from my childhood. I also remember how it won multiple awards and that this was like the kiss of death for me. You see, the films I normally watch don’t win Oscars, BAFTAs or any kind of mainstream awards. I associate these awards with boring fare that appeals to Guardian readers. The kind of movies that are perfectly crafted but as much fun as disembowelling yourself. If anyone had tried to start a conversation about Chariots of Fire when I was growing up in the 80s, I would have asked, ‘But is it better than The Burning? Friday the 13th Part 2? Cannibal Apocalypse?’
But, I’ve just watched Chariots for the first ever time for two reasons. Firstly, there’s a track on the soundtrack for Halloween 3: Season of the Witch called Chariots of Pumpkins which is a reference to the award-winning film (where were the Oscar nominations for H3? Fools!) and also because Chariots director Hugh Hudson has just passed away. Chariots had been on my TiVo for ages and so now was as good an opportunity to watch as ever.
On watching the film I can report back that Ian Holm from Alien is in it (Chariots would have been made only a couple of years after) and SO IS BRAD DAVIS!!! How did I not know that one of my favourite actors was in this movie?! Chariots was made just one year before Brad went on to star in Fassbinder’s masterpiece, Querelle.
I can also report back from the dark side known as ‘respectable cinema’ that Chariots rocked my world. No, I won’t be abandoning my weird tastes in movies just yet and swapping my slasher movies for copies of fare such as Gandhi and Citizen Kane, but it’s hard to deny the awe, majesty and emotions that Chariots evokes.
The film charts the journey of Eric Liddell, a Scottish devout Christian and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew, to the Olympic Games. Liddell says he runs for God, whilst Abrahams says his running acts as an antidote to the discrimination some Jewish people such as himself face.
Everyone has seen the scenes of the men running in slow-motion whilst the iconic Vangelis theme plays over the soundtrack. It’s a shame that only this piece of music from the soundtrack is so well known as all of the OST is just as visionary, breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
I actually went to a private school (and hated the experience) and so I could relate to the kind of locales depicted in the film. They are depicted lovingly well here and almost make me fondly nostalgic for my own school days. Almost.
Chariots of Fire is beautifully photographed and framed. There were many points within the film that I thought to myself, ‘I’d love to see this on the big screen’. Could you imagine Chariots in IMAX?
The acting, as you’d expect from a film that critics fell over themselves to lavish praise upon, is uniformly brilliant. It’s also great to see actors such as Holm and Davis who made eclectic and brilliant choices regarding the films they chose to star in. Sir John Gielgud also stars not long after having been in the masterpiece comedy, Arthur.
So, there you have it. I’ve dipped my toe in the world of respectable cinema and I loved it. But I won’t be watching Casablanca any time soon.
5 stars out of 5