Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is a successful merchant in Jerusalem, despite the Roman rule Jerusalem finds itself under. When he hears that his childhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) returned to Jerusalem as head of the Roman garrison, he is overjoyed. But their happy reunion is soon overshadowed by the reality of their very different politics and social standing. After an unfortunate accident, Messala sends Judah to the galleys as punishment, and Judah’s mother Miriam (Martha Scott) and sister Tirzah (Cathy O’Donnell) to prison. Judah swears that he will return and take his revenge on Messala.
I went into Ben-Hur knowing very little about it, but I wanted to see it because a) classic and b) remake. “There are chariot chases and Romans,” was about the extent of it. So a few things took me very much by surprise – like the fact that this is a religious film. This is not the only reason but a contributing factor to my utter boredom during the film and my decision to not watch the remake because why would I put myself through that twice?
During World War I, T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is stationed in Egypt. He is knowledgeable but doesn’t fit in easily with the army. To the Arab Bureau’s Mr Dryden (Claude Rains) that makes him the ideal candidate to meet with Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) and generally assess the power distribution and the development within the Bedouin communities. Lawrence sets off and finds himself drawn into their world more and more.
Lawrence of Arabia is one of those classics everybody keeps raving about and that I had never seen (there are quite a few of those, unfortunately). So when it was announced that they’d show it in a local cinema, I knew I had to go. And I can say that it was a good choice to see it on the big screen. It’s a stunning film, although not unproblematic, especially not from today’s point of view.