My Reaction Paper: Literature in Ben Hur Film

My Reaction Paper: Literature in Ben Hur Film I cannot think of a better movie about the early days of Christianity than this one. There are others, of course, but none has the grandeur and the spectacular dimension of Ben-Hur. I gladly and proudly give Ben-Hur a score of 10 out of 10! “In order to know the history of nation’s spirit, one must read its literature. ” Ben Hur film exposes history of Romans and Jews. The novel that was adopted was written in a less vulgar time about a very spiritual event. Perhaps William Wyler, the director, resolved to study the Bible and learn about his faith so that he would be better prepared.

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He did his research well. Judah Ben-Hur and his mother and sister are descended from a very ancient family of Hebrew nobility. The founder of this house was Hur who in the Bible was the husband of Miriam who was Moses’ sister. Hur pops up as a peripheral character during the whole story of the Exodus. He invested the characters that Charlton Heston, Martha Scott, and Cathy O’Donnell play with a heroic lineage which makes their fall all the more tragic. So, on the consciousness of the public were the Hur family that one often thinks of them as real people.

In one of the final scenes, after the Crucifixion, Judah (Charlton Heston) returns home. He crosses the courtyard and heads to the door. Before entering the dwelling he stops to fix something on the wall to the right that is broken. What is he fixing and what is the significance? Why did director William Wyler see this as something to include? I found out that it is a Mezuzah, a box with scriptures enclosed, which all Jewish homes have. There should a mezuzah at the entrance to every Jewish home and on the doorpost of the main rooms within the home.

Every time a Jew passes through a door with a mezuzah on it, he or she touches it and then kisses the fingers that touched it, expressing love and respect for God and his commandments, and as a reminder of the specific commandments contained in it. By touching the mezuzah, Judah is acknowledging his Jewishness. This picture has everything in it. Almost all human sentiments are represented in the story: joy, sorrow, despair, pride, jealousy, hope, revenge, anger, forgiveness, compassion, redemption, love, hate, friendship, humor, etc, etc.

During the three and a half hours it takes for the story to unfold, I see passing by my very eyes just about every example of what constitutes the human condition. What I find even more remarkable in this movie is the fact that Christ is present throughout the entire story, but I don’t really see him in the flesh (at the exception of a few scenes, where the Lord is, in fact, in the background) and yet, his spirit and message is ever present through the words and actions of the various characters.

It’s not for nothing that the complete title of this great story is “Ben-Hur, a Tale of the Christ”. The way that Christ’s face is never visible nor his voice audible to the audience creates a feeling of reverence to the actual person of Jesus. The movie is well-acted (especially Heston, Griffith, Hawkins and, let’s not forget, the wonderful Finley Currie, playing Balthazar), the dialogue is always concise, yet never short of meaning and substance (the way dialogues in movies should be), the decor and settings are just magnificent.

The story in its wholeness is outstanding, it has everything an epic movie needs; Adventure, thrill, drama, romance, tragedy, just everything. And this is, indeed, an epic movie among the best. The story itself isn’t just what described in the plot outlines; it has so many more levels of incomprehensible depth, so much power which takes it to an unexpected direction and based on what I saw I’d say it’s undeniably one of the best epic stories ever seen or told on the big screen.

Based on the novel by Lew Wallace, translated to a screenplay by Karl Tunberg it’s quality writing and storytelling in an incredible level, from the beginning till the end. The film does get a bit heavy after the 2 and a half hours, which is really disappointing, as until that point it has a very good flow and the viewer doesn’t get bored, but after that point it’s slightly long-winded. Despite that the movie manages to be highly entertaining, so for the final rating and your overall opinion the heaviness isn’t exactly as crucial as you may think.

The music creates tension and comprehension while we progress throughout the movie and though it is as much as any other music in the movies made in the late 50’s or early 60’s it’s still pretty awesome and it cannot be ignored. The one significant thing above everything else is how well the whole movie is made, especially when considering its age. It’s simply phenomenal how much time and effort has been put to this movie and it can definitely be seen from every single scene streaming across the screen, one after another. The props, the dressing, basically everything is an achievement like no other.

I have to bear in mind that back in 1959 there wasn’t any kind of possibility for a such thing as computer graphics animation so basically everything I see on the screen has really happened and has been shot, so even that alone isa huge achievement which really deserves all the attention this movie has. There was this one particular scene that I will most certainly remember forever and that was the scene which probably awoke contradictory opinions and views back then because of its bloody yet realistic violence – The horse race scene.

That is a scene I think everyone has heard of and I am one of those people who were left mouth open,as it is indeed fantastic. Judah Ben-Hur and Messala, played by Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd, are very memorable characters and the chemistry between those two legendary actors is unspeakably overwhelming, as if the opposite personalities of the characters would compensate each other, which then forms that chemistry. Stephen Boyd is excellent as Messala, but Charlton Heston is even better as Ben-Hur and the role even brought him an Academy Award for the best actor in a leading role.

It is no wonder. Like I’ve said before when I’ve reviewed older movies; The acting is totally different from the acting these days. It’s a totally different art form of its own and it just cannot be compared to the acting this day. There is that certain extravagance if I may say it, it requires that relating to the age again, but it’s still a real treat for your eyes and ears, giving you something different. It’s like a fresh summer breeze. Ben-Hur” is definitely a movie worth watching, when first making sure you have the time for it, a movie which you cannot stop and continue the next day. Though it does get a bit heavy like mentioned, it’s still worth it in the end. The heaviness is the only reason why I’m not going to give this motion picture a perfect score. The film includes brilliant role performances, fantastic story and superior art direction, set decoration and costume design. If a movie like this was made now it would still work as butter on a bread, and that’s really something, isn’t it?


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