Another week, another round-up of Ben-Hur-themed news items.
I watched the 1959 version of Ben-Hur with my kids today — it was the first time they had ever seen the film — and I noticed something that had never occurred to me before: the final shot in the film shows a shepherd guiding his flock beneath the empty cross at Golgotha, just like the final shot in Jesus Christ Superstar.
At least fourteen photos and three posters were released this month during the run-up to the first trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings. Now, thanks to a website called Pissed Off Geek, we have at least three more images for our collections.
The most striking, to me, is this shot of Moses holding a sword to Ramses’ throat, which was hinted at in the trailer but is much more explicit in this photo. And look at how much taller Moses is! I can’t think of another movie about the Exodus that made Moses so much more physically imposing, even threatening, than the Pharaoh he confronts. Even Charlton Heston, for all his statuesque poses, was content to proclaim things, point his fingers, and let God and his miracles take care of the rest. (And the Pharaoh opposing him was played by Yul Brynner, who was no slouch in the alpha-male department himself.)
I guess the makers of Exodus couldn’t let the new trailers for Noah get all the Bible-epic attention this week. Christian Bale, currently promoting the crime thriller Out of the Furnace, gave an interview to Hitfix recently in which he let slip a comment or two about Exodus, the currently-shooting Ridley Scott film in which Bale is playing Moses:
“It’s an intriguing piece, because it’s very few people that I’ve met that have actually read the Torah, the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, all the way through,” Bale said. “Most people read snippets. If you read it all the way through, it’s harsh. It’s really ‘Old Testament.’ And violence in the extreme. He was not a man of any half measures whatsoever.”
Towards the end of the just-published article, Bale adds: “There’s a lot of shocking stuff about it.” And by “it”, he seems to be referring not just to the books of Moses, but to the film that is currently being fashioned out of those books.
General Lew Wallace had lived a colorful life of his own before his novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was published in 1880. By then, he had defended Washington, D.C. from Confederates during the Civil War, served on the court-martial that tried Lincoln’s assassins, and, as Governor of New Mexico Territory, dealt with outlaws like Billy the Kid.
But what he really wanted to do was write — and so he wrote his novel about a Jewish prince who is betrayed by a Roman tribune during the time when Jesus lived. Ben-Hur was spurred by Wallace’s love of stories like The Count of Monte Cristo, but it was also motivated by an encounter with Robert Ingersoll, a famous agnostic who was passionately opposed to Christianity. Until that meeting, Wallace had been indifferent towards religion, but afterwards, he felt he needed to research Christianity for himself — and thus he became a believer.