Chariots of Fire
Release Year: 1981
Director: Hugh Hudson
Writer: Colin Welland (screenplay)
Starring: Nicholas Farrell, Ian Charleson, Ben Cross, Nigel Havers, Daniel Gerroll, Ian Holm, John Gielgud, Lindsay Anderson, Nigel Davenport, Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige, Dennis Christopher, Brad Davis, Patrick Magee, Peter Egan, David Yelland
Rating: Won 4 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Score. Nominated for 3 Oscars: Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Ian Holm), Best Editing. Won 1 Golden Globe: Best Foreign Film. Won 2 Cannes Film Festival prizes: Best Supporting Actor (Ian Holm), Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Prize. Nominated for the Palme d’Or.
Two British athletes, Abrahams (Ben Cross), a Jewish university student determined to disprove people’s prejudices, and Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a devout Christian with a promising missionary future planned, compete as runners in the 1924 Paris Olympics.
This British sports film was one of the big winners at the 1982 Academy Awards. The story of two very different athlete with very different beliefs and paths who went all the way to the 1924 Olympics captivated audiences with a gripping score and now legendary musical theme. The film is a smorgasbord of British acting stars, from John Gielgud (Julius Caesar, 1953) and an Oscar-winning Ian Holm (From Hell, 2001) to a young cast lead by Cross (Star Trek, 2009) and Charleson (Gandhi, 1982). The film is coloured by a sense of the odd mixture of hopelessness and love of parties that dominated the upper class youth following the devastating First World War (1914-18). Heroes to believe in were needed and Abrahams and Liddell became heroes of British athletics. Many films showcase the University environment in interwar period Britain, but Chariots of Fire should be lauded for portraying a devoutly Christian character as through and through good and honourable. That has been a rare sight in the following almost four decades. The pace is slow except for a few very well made running competitions. And, last but not least, that theme tune will get stuck in your head and stay there for days.
The writer Colin Welland struggled to find the right title for his screenplay, which was originally given the less than inspirational title Runners“. The inspiration for the title Chariots of Fire came from William Blake’s poem “And did those Feet in Ancient Time” also known as “Jerusalem”, which has the line “Bring me my chariot of fire!”. The hymn version of Blake’s poem is sung by a church choir at the end of the film. Jul
Picture Copyright: Twentieth Century Fox