The fortieth anniversary of the film Chariots of Fire directed by Hugh Hudson, which unexpectedly won four Oscars, including Best Picture, is a good opportunity to reflect once again on its merits, perhaps with the whole family.
The true story is well known, and won over the great producer David Puttnam (The Mission, Killing Fields, Memphis Belle) the moment he read it. A group of English athletes led by the British Harold Abrahams (of Jewish origin) and the Scottish Eric Liddell come together in the early 1920s and eventually triumph at the 1924 Paris Olympics. In doing so, they need to overcome internal and external obstacles in their life as young students. First of all, the covert racism common in those years, which presents a challenge to Abrahams with his unassuming temperament (a confrontation depicted without any surrender to the “politically correct” narrative so common today). Then, the insistence of Liddell’s missionary parents that he pursue his plan to be a missionary in China without “wasting time” on athletics.
One of the film’s cornerstones is the importance of faith. Paraphrasing Saint Paul, Liddell says that faith can be “compared to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul,” especially when trying to live it with naturalness in one’s daily life. When facing the difficult choice between training for the Olympics or abandoning everything for the missions, Liddell tells his sister, “Jenny, I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” These words come just after his missionary father had remarked, “You can glorify God by peeling a potato if you peel it to perfection.”