Chariots Of Fire (1981 – DVD)

“I’ve known the fear of losing but now I am almost too frightened to win”

Released in cinemas a month before I was born, I’ve never actually seen Hugh Hudson’s famous film ‘Chariots Of Fire’. In a perhaps ill-judged move I gave up my long wait for it to be restored on Blu-Ray a mere two months before a promised London-2012-Olympics cash-in Blu-Ray edition arrives.  I’m glad I watched this magnificent film but I’m sad I didn’t wait for the new version as the DVD transfer I’ve just watched was frankly awful!

The film is about the many athletic triumphs that Britain had at the 1924 Paris Olympics immediately following The Great War.  The first thing that hits you is the power and celestial beauty of Vangelis’ heart pumping synthesiser score.  This is fully matched by the soaring poetry of the screenplay, talking as much about faith in God and belief in one’s self as it does about running.  Colin Welland’s script focus on the twin struggles of Christian Scotsman Eric Liddell and Jewish Englishman Harold Abrahams in the leadup to the games.  The genius of his script has these two men neck and neck for your affections right up ’til the end.  But at that end, for these two runners, it becomes less about beating the other and more about reaching the high ideals by which they hold themselves.

As the credits roll ‘Chariots Of Fire’ does have you swelling with patriotic pride as the words of William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ flow from the soundtrack “Bring me my bow of burning gold, bring me my arrows of desire, bring me my spear, o clouds unfold, bring me my chariot of fire” (Billy Bragg has it so right, ‘Jerusalem’ should be our national anthem!).  Roll on the Blu-Ray!

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