Click here to buy Amazon movie bestsellers

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Ben-Hur: An epic movie

This is another epic movie in the line of Ten Commandments. It is another movie starring Charlton Heston in the lead role, and he did a wonderful job of it. This is a bibical tale, set primarily in Jerusalem. The movie was a big hit when released in 1959, and won 11 Oscars (not beaten by another movie since); this includes the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Actor. It was a gamble for MGM (almost in bankruptcy), but it invested $15 million, and made $75 million, a vast sum at its time. The movie is a long movie, running almost 3-and-a-half hours.
The story is essentially a clash between 2 friends turned enemies, Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and Roman Messala (Stephen Boyd). They are childhood friends in Jerusalem, but as they grew into adults, those were times of rebellion. Jerusalem was chafing under the rule of the Romans, and the Romans wanted to crush the rebellion. Messala returns as the commanding officer of the Roman legions, second only to the tribune. They meet as friends, but they have different agendas.
Judah Ben-Hur is all for independence of the Jews, while Messala believes in the power of Rome, and is responsible for crushing the rebellion. He wants Judah to identify the ring-leaders of the rebellion, and be his informer, something that Judah refuses to do, instead advising him to remove the Roman legions. They part no longer friends.
The next incident is the one which forms the basis of the movie. As the tribune is marching through Jerusalem, a tile accidentally falls from Judah's house, and almost kills the tribune. Calling this an assassination attempt, Messala sends Judah to the galleys as a slave (even though he knows that this was an accident); trying to send a strong message to the natives of Jerusalem. As Judah arrives at Nazareth, he is being denied water, and is given water by the messiah (Jesus).
In a series of incidents on the water which could have killed a weaker man, Judah survives and saves the life of the Roman admiral Qunitus Arrius (Jack Hawkins). Quintus adopts Judah as his son and brings him to Rome as a rich and respected person. However, Judah wants to return to Judea (Jerusalem). He confronts Messala about his family; however, his mother and sister had contracted leprosy in the times they were in the dungeon and are moved to the lepers colony. They do not want Judea to know about their plight.
Then the 11 minute scene that is the highlight of the movie. The chariot race, with a challenge between Judea and Messala begins, and is a brutal race. There are no rules in this race, and one can see people getting thrown from their chariot and getting crushed under chariots. In a climatic moment, Messala is dragged from his chariot, and then pulled under other chariots and seriously injured. On his deathbed, he calls for Judea and to claim his final victory, informs Judea that his mother and sister are not dead, but lepers, living their life in the lepers colony.
Judea confronts his childhood love Esther, who admits that she has been giving them food, but she does not allow him to meet them. Judea still has hate in his mind, although he is being told about the new messiah who promises love. In this hate, he rejects the offer of Roman citizenship, and is proclaimed as an enemy by Pontius Pilate, the new Roman Governor.
In the final episode of the movie, after Jesus is condemned to death by crucification, and is marching his painful march carrying the crucifix, he is offered water by Judea who recognizes Jesus as the person who offered him water when he was being lead to the slave gallery. As Jesus is being crucified, Judea leads his dying sister and mother to near the site where Jesus is being crucified. As the heavens open up over the crucification, the blessed rain and seeping blood cure the leprosy and free them of all their diseases. The motto is that Jesus took all the evils of the world on his shoulder.

Post a Comment