Chariots of Fire is an iconic movie with its memorable opening sequence, lifelike characters, intense races, and unique score by Vangelis. I have watched the movie many times throughout my life, but after a recent viewing with my family the most interesting fact about it was its very human comparison of worldview between the two main protagonists: Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.
The movie opens with Harold Abrahams. Harold is a man of Jewish ancestry who keenly feels the prejudice that many in England carry towards his race. Abrahams has a very pragmatic view of his running -he runs to prove himself to others and to defeat his enemies. For him, running is a weapon to be used against those who belittle his ancestry, and thereby him. Abrahams approaches life from a personal, man-centered perspective. In his mind, he must justify his existence, prove his worth, and personally attain victory over his enemies. At one point in the movie he tells his friend Aubrey Montague, “And now in one hour’s time, I will be out there again. I will raise my eyes and look down that corridor; 4 feet wide, with 10 lonely seconds to justify my existence. But will I?” Although it is never explicitly stated in the movie, Abrahams has a very post-modern/Nietzsche-an view of life. His need to create his own meaning leaves him constantly straining after something ethereal he knows that he wants, but cannot find. He says, “You, Aubrey are my most complete man. You’re brave, compassionate, kind: a content man. That is your secret, contentment; I am 24 and I’ve never known it. I’m forever in pursuit and I don’t even know what I am chasing.” Even at the end of the movie, after victory has been won, Abrahams is still empty, and the joy that should have been present at his triumph is silently missing.
While Abrahams ran seeking to find contentment and peace with the world, Eric Liddell’s character follows a very different route. Unlike Abrahams’ approach trying to justify his own existence, Eric runs for one purpose, and one purpose only. He says to his sister, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” This quote demonstrates two key differences between Eric and Harold: 1) Eric has his purpose (it was given to him by God) and 2) he is running not to justify himself in some way, but because when he runs he “feel[s] [God’s] pleasure.” Because of Eric’s beliefs and faith, he does not struggle with the loneliness and grasping that characterizes Abraham’s character throughout the movie. Although the movie probably spends more time fleshing out Abraham’s character than Liddell’s, Liddell is the one in the end who comes across as the most content and happy.
More than anything, I found the contrasting portrayal of world view in Chariots of Fire to be the most interesting aspect of the film. The differing approaches to life followed by Abrahams and Liddell accurately (though probably unintentionally) displays the approach of fallen man with the path that God has provided. It is a movie that everyone should watch, and even if worldview comparisons aren’t a convincing reason to watch a movie, the film provides plenty of action and drama to satisfy any moviegoer.
“Chariots of Fire.” – Wikiquote. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2013.