While channel surfing the other night I came across the last half of a movie that I've admired from the moment I first saw it. It's one of my all-time favorite movies. It's Chariots of Fire.
The film came out in 1981. I was in high school then and I did a lot of running. But if you think this movie is only about running, you have missed the most important part. It's about principles and standing up for them. It's about fighting for glory.
The film focuses on two main characters, Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams. These men participated in the 1924 British Men's Track Team for the VIII Olympic Games in Paris. Liddell is a devout Christian who runs for God. Abrahams is a Jew trying to find his place in the very established Christian society of England.
Both possess great athletic talent.
Both face decisions that test their resolve.
I only caught the last half hour or so the other night, but to me, that's the best part. The British Olympic team's about to depart for the games across the channel when Liddell is informed that his preliminary race is scheduled for Sunday.
That's a problem.
Liddell won't run on Sunday.
Liddell's race is the 100 meters. That's Abrahams's race, too. Previously, Liddell beat Abrahams, something that never happens. The need to be the best eats Abrahams alive inside. He's got to win. You'd think that since Liddell won't run on Sunday, and therefore disqualifying him for the race, it would be the best news for Abrahams. If you've seen the film (and I'm assuming most of you have...), you know that Abrahams wins; he's the best in the world.
Or is he?
Liddell gets a chance to run the 400 meters. He runs and wins. As he runs a voice-over proclaims his testimony of faith. He runs for God. After he wins Liddell is carried off the track atop this teammates, his spirits flying. The crowd goes wild. A man of principles triumphs.
But what of Abrahams? Though he wins, he knows he's not the best. Had Liddell's preliminary race not been on Sunday, Abrahams probably would have lost. He can never truly claim to be the best. I may be reading more into this than what's there. Harold Abrahams may have been completely satisfied with his medal and the race. But the message I got from the film told a different story.
The show has that 1980s electro-synth soundtrack, which is a little corny. But overall the film holds up well. It tells a story of men fighting for glory, the glory of men and the glory of God. Chariots of Fire, it's just a great film!