Watch: Pilate addresses the crowd in a new Ben-Hur clip

Watch: Pilate addresses the crowd in a new Ben-Hur clip August 4, 2016

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Last week, the studio behind the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur released five clips from the film, all of which touched on the movie’s religious themes. Today we get our first “mainstream” clip from the film, in which Judah Ben-Hur and his nemesis Messala have one last exchange before the iconic chariot race begins — but you can still get a hint of the movie’s themes thanks to a speech by one Pontius Pilate.

Here is the clip:

Here is what Pilate says to the crowd before the chariot race (though this might not be his whole speech; he might say more after the point where the clip cuts off):

People of Jerusalem, friends of Rome. We celebrate the power of man. You will see them race for glory. You will see them fight for honour. You will see them die for you!

Here is what Pilate said before the race in the 1959 film:

Citizens. I welcome you to these games in the name of your emperor, the divine Tiberius. We dedicate them to his glory, and to the glory of Rome, of which you are all part. Let us honour those who race for us today. They come here from Alexandria, Messina, Carthage, Cyprus, Rome, Corinth, Athens, Phrygia and Judea. To the best of these, a crown of victory. The race begins. Hail, Caesar!

And here is what he said before the race in the 2010 miniseries:

To Jupiter greatest and best, Juno his consort, and Minerva, the mightiest one’s mightiest offspring, may this race represent our sacred vow, offered on behalf of he who subjects the whole width of the Earth to the rule of the Senate and people of Rome, Tiberius Julius Caesar the August. May these, his subjects, strive to do him honour, whatever lot the gods may choose.

Pilate then names all the charioteers and bids the race begin with a wave of his hand.

As you can see, the Pilate of the earlier films made a point of underscoring the pagan religiosity and imperialistic power of Rome, but the Pilate of the new film celebrates “the power of man” instead. That sounds, to me, like a remarkably modern theme and not necessarily something that a Roman governor would have said to his Middle Eastern subjects; to put this another way, it sounds tailor-made for a modern conflict between religious (particularly Christian) belief and secular humanism, rather than the conflict between different gods that would have existed in the ancient world. But it fits with the modernizing pattern that we’ve seen in other clips from this film (e.g. Judah telling Jesus, dismissively, that his ideas sound “very progressive”).

Check out earlier trailers and other videos here:

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