Would Ben Hur (1959) work better without the Jesus overtones?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by RobR, Jan 11, 2002.

  1. RobR

    RobR Second Unit

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    A magnificant film, having seen it for the first time tonight. Except I thought Ben Hur (1959) would work better if it hadn't included the Jesus overtones, particularly the arrival of Jesus (nativity prologue) and the cruxifixion/cleansing rain scenes. I have nothing against Jesus; it's just that I think the film would play tighter and emphasize the story better without the religious overtones. In other words, it could have been edited like Spartacus (which has no religious overtones at all) and still make a magnificant (or even better) film.

    In watching the film, I was reminded by the quote by New York Post in the original trailer for Spartacus: "In same giant class as Ben Hur.... and superior in wit, characterization and romance." Given what I perceive as the unnecessary Jesus overtones in Ben Hur, I'd have a difficult time determining which would be the better film of the two.

    What's your opinion?
     
  2. Mitty

    Mitty Supporting Actor

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    Religion is a big part of the story.
    The book from which it is adapted is called, after all, "Ben-Hur: a Tale of the Christ."
    It's about a man who's raised as a Jew and in the end, becomes a Christian. That he lives his life concurrent with that of Jesus is not meant just as a coincidence. The injustices that Ben-Hur lives through and fights against are the very same ones that Christ spoke against. The difference is that while Christ speaks of forgiveness as his "weapon" of choice, Ben Hur's lack of faith doesn't allow him to make that leap.
    At the end of the movie, Judah says to his wife, "Almost at the moment he died, I heard him say it, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'...Even then. And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand."
    The real arc of the story is his character learning that lesson, not getting revenge on his friend turned enemy.
    Now, the REAL question is, would it have better without that gay undertones. [​IMG]
    I'm running away now.
     
  3. DonnyD

    DonnyD Screenwriter

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    There are always movies that we, as movie-lovers, would change to suit or own taste. Ben Hur is one that should be left as it is. Beautiful story and very inspirational.
     
  4. Dave Gorman

    Dave Gorman Supporting Actor

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  5. Julian Reville

    Julian Reville Screenwriter

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    My favorite movie of all time; I've always thought it was close to perfect as is. Not exactly like the book, but close enough.

    But, given Hollywood, we will probably have a remake within the next 5 years.
     
  6. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    I'm not sure what is meant by the "Jesus overtones", but I do not think it would not have been nearly as good. The whole story was conceived as "A Tale of the Christ", and it actually seems revolutionary these days to see a film where the protaganist achieves revenge through physical exertion and the resulting death of his chief antagonist and realizes that it is not all that satisfying and was not what he really needed to move past his pain and rage.

    Regards,
     
  7. Hartwig Hanser

    Hartwig Hanser Second Unit

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    I think the movie would have been better, if Jesus wouldn´t have had such immaculate groomed hair - not very believable...

    Otherwise the movie is fine as it is, although I am not a religious person.
     
  8. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    All I know is it would have worked better with anyone---anyone, even Stubby Kaye---in the role of Messala than Stephen Boyd. God, that man cannot act a lick.
     
  9. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    As Mitty stated it's hard to remove JC from an adaptation of a book subtitled "A Tale of the Christ". Actually I think they way they underplayed the JC figure was very effective. In the documentary they talk about how to portray the most recognized man in the world and in the end they pick a pretty innovative solution (don't show his face). Ben Hur has always been one of my favorite movies and I think it is near perfect the way it is.

    Kenneth
     
  10. Ashley Seymour

    Ashley Seymour Supporting Actor

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    At the time the book was written, and even when the movie came out, the public probably had a better idea of the message that was being conveyed. After all the pain, suffering and injustice that he suffered, it was natural that Ben Hur had allowed his hatred and desire for revenge come to control his life. His brief encounters with the Christ had a profound impact on how he chose to live the remainder of his life.
    As usual Mitty uses a few well chosen words and observations to convey a deep meaning. Well done.
    Ben Hur remains one of the top ten movies of all time. I have not seen Spartacus for a long time, but I do not remember being moved or impressed when I saw it.
    For a Ben Hur type movie without the Jesus overtones, you might try Gladiator . [​IMG]
     
  11. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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  12. Agee Bassett

    Agee Bassett Supporting Actor

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    Absolutely not. Ben-Hur is a movie, above all, about redemption and forgiveness. For a character as consumed with vengance as Judah Ben-Hur was, suspending a spiritual rebirth, no other end for him save an utterly tragic one would have been remotely believable. One doesn't have to be simpatico with the religious message; it works purely on a dramatic level. [​IMG]
     
  13. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    By the way, folks, there's a hyphen in this film's title. ...

    First off, I'm not theologically inclined toward this film (or anything else, for that matter). But in no way can this film be separated from the Christianity; that's what it's about, pure and simple.

    In other words, "What Mitty said."
     
  14. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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    I saw Ben-Hur for the first time in my life when I was six or seven, in a revival theater in the late '70's, and the portions of the film that stuck with me until I saw it again many years later, were the allusions to Christ.

    Why? Because in Ben-Hur, Jesus is a character who is reflected solely in the reaction shots of those who gaze upon him. This creates a sense of awe a mystery, of transcendence. The story belongs to these characters but Ben-Hur's passion comes from its circumnavigation of CHrist's tale.

    The movie IMO would not work as well without it. In fact, it would otherwise just be another Gladiator (sorry to those who enjoyed it).

    Cheers,

    Joseph
     
  15. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

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  16. RobR

    RobR Second Unit

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  17. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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  18. Agee Bassett

    Agee Bassett Supporting Actor

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    Ben-Hur does convert in the film, but the filmmakers chose not to stress this, in a (wise) decision to avoid hamfistedness.
     
  19. Dave Gorman

    Dave Gorman Supporting Actor

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  20. RobR

    RobR Second Unit

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