Directed by William Wyler, Ben-Hur is a movie based on a novel written hundreds of years back. It came in the limelight during the era of Jesus Christ. The setting is in the town of Jerusalem in the ancient Rome. The main themes addressed in this movie are politics, slavery, vengeance, political oppression and friendship. The two friends, Ben Hur and Messala part ways due to political issues in the ancient Rome. Messala seems to believe so much in power of the Rome government while Ben Hur holds onto the fact that the Jews must be given their freedom by the government no matter what. This brings political rivalry between the two friends. Messala works with the military while Ben Hur is an affluent businessman.
Due to his loyalty he has with the Rome government, Messala approaches his friend to request him to give him the individuals who were criticizing the government. This is an indication that political oppression was being practiced during this era in Jerusalem. Anybody who went against the government was hunted down by the same government. Ben Hur does not quench Messala’s thirst of wanting to pin down his friends and this leads to the two getting mad at each other.
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The Name of the Rose is a movie which came in the lime light in 1986 and stage managed by Jean Jacques Annaud. The title emanates from the text by Umberto Eco. The setting is in Northern Italy so many years back. The themes evident in the movie are death, religion, immorality, political oppression and betrayal. Something in abbey is strange and something has to be done.
When making similarities that are evident in these two movies in terms of characters and thematic issues, it is also good to note that the two films are based on texts which were written so many years back. In other words, their setting is during the ancient period. To begin with, political oppression is evident in the two films. In Ben Hur movie which is set in the ancient Rome, when Ben Hur does not reveal the names of those people who were criticizing the Rome government to his military friend Messala, he opts to seek revenge through oppressing the mother of Ben Hur and the sister for mistakes they did not comment. This is just meant to intimidate the Jewish community and to get back at his long time friend who at this time they are not in good terms. This was probably one of the most sort ways by those who were in power to get what they want. On seeing this, Ben Hur swears to get back at Messala when he returns.
On the other hand, in the movie The Name of the Rose 1986, William the monk decides to carry out some investigations on the claims of evil possession. His investigations are halted by Bernado Gui who decides to have all those he thought as having caused the deaths before the conference. The deaths were occurring in a mysterious way and therefore hard to tell who was exactly behind the heinous acts. Just like there was a clash between Ben Hur and Messala, William who is at the time carrying out investigations clashes with Bernado because of the oppression he is just about to carry on some innocent people. Bernado is also quick also to subject some two innocent girls to oppression for very small mistakes saying they are collaborating with Satan. This leads to them being taken before a court to answer to the charges. This clearly indicates that political oppression was very common in this time in history and it was in most cases exercised on the young and innocent in the society.
In the same way Ben Hur is adamant to betray his friends to Messala, likewise, William des not allow himself to do the same to his friend when he is compelled to confess that they were involved in the murder. As a result, Bernado is angered and disappointed and swears to get back at him. This is because his loyalty to the government is not seen. On the other hand, Messala swears to get back at his friend Ben Hur and he surely does so when the opportunity presents itself.
The political oppression leads to Ben Hur fleeing away after her mother and sister are oppressed. He almost looses his life and is later subjected to slavery. It is while he is serving as a slave that he gets an opportunity to train as a charioteer but his faith in God to provide a way for him is evident when he turns down the offer. He was later freed from slavery and all the charges which he had been charged with are dropped and he is a free man again. This offers him an opportunity to train and regain his wealth and fame. When he makes an attempt to approach Messala to free his mother and sister, he is shocked to learn that the two had died while in prison.
The theme of death is evident in the two films and mostly brought by need for vengeance. Love and friendship is very obvious even if there are so many challenges that face the characters in both cases. In The Name of the Rose, Adso falls in love with a girl who was a harlot after the girl approaches him. On the other hand, Ben Hur had fallen in love with Esther a girl of the man who was their servant in their house. Even after he is put on slavery, the two still love each other and they meet after Ben Hur is freed.
The thematic issue of vengeance is evident in the two films. Ben Hur decides to face Messala to demand for his mother and sister. He is told that the two were murdered. During the competition of chariots, Messala deliberately wants to kill his rival Ben Hur with a chariot. The competition seems so tough and full of aggressiveness. When Messala makes an attempt to finish off Ben Hur, he kills himself instead. Ben Hur ends up winning the race and Messala reveals to him where to get his family. On the other hand, Bernado attempts to get back at William but he ends up losing his life instead.
Between these two movies, the thematic issues are well elaborated although Ben Hur movie is clear and easy to understand. The plot is well organized and the viewer can easily connect one event to the next. In the The Name of the Rose movie, the mysterious deaths are not clearly brought out and the plot is so confusing. The two themes of death and vengeance alongside political oppression in the ancient times are brought out well. The development of the characters is clearly seen in Ben Hur and simple to understand.
Of the two movies, Ben Hur is the most effective in highlighting its historical thematic issues and characters. The oppression that is met on Jews by the Rome government does not make Ben Hur to compromise his faith and urge to get his mother and sister safely. The evil Messala dies a horrible death in his attempt to finish off Ben Hur. His plans do not see the light of the day.
Ben Hur is most interesting and likeable because it does not have so many incidences of death. It brings on the service the evil things that happened in the ancient Rome. People were put on slavery and torture if the did not obey to take part in the evil activities of those in power. The development of characters in the two films is equally likeable right from the onset.