Ben-Hur – 1959 – Inglés
Film directed in 1959 by William Wyler, and starring Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, Cathy O’Donnell…
Synopsis: Judah Ben-Hur lives as a rich Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century. Together with the new governor his old friend Messala arrives as commanding officer of the Roman legions. At first they are happy to meet after a long time but their different politic views separate them. During the welcome parade a roof tile falls down from Judah’s house and injures the governor. Although Messala knows they are not guilty, he sends Judah to the galleys and throws his mother and sister into prison. But Judah swears to come back and take revenge.
Review: This film is so much more than the chariot race. Undoubtedly, that is the most famous sequence and for good reason. It is stunning, electric, tense and the so very exciting. There is nothing like simply seeing a chariot race unfold by actually filming a group a chariots. But the sequence is filled with meaning because the film spends so much time building up the personal relationship between Judah and Messala; their hatred for each other displayed in the chariot race is alive and bitter. Because we have seen them expressing deep kinship and spiritual love.
There is a famous dispute between Wyler and Vidal about how much of the Judah-Messala relationship was intended to have a subtext of a gay jilted lovers. I think to dwell on that is to sort of miss the point. While it it is really easy to read an erotic love (especially on Messala’s part) between the two it is clear that spiritual love is present in anycase. The erotic element is present if one cares to look but it is not needed. There is clearly an emotional intimacy between the two. This intimacy gets soured by politics. The story is richer, deeper and more personal as a result.
Richer is a good word for this movie. It is nearly 4 hours long but it is a fully fleshed out epic that engages the entire time. I rather enjoyed how the Christian themes are restrained-You never see Christ’s face, you only hear what he says second hand etc.-it makes the film feel about Jesus of Nazareth and not necessarily Jesus Christ. I feel like it makes the film more accessible to nonChristians while Christians can infer what the wish. Biblical epics can often be very stuffy and overwrought. Wyler’s use of deep focus really gives the film a feel of intimate epicness. The scope is grand; the focus personal,
Wyler was a very good filmmaker; this is something of a departure for him. Nonetheless this film is still the work of a master.