Apr 12, 2007

Rhetorical Analysis: "Ben Hur"

In the crucifixion scene of Ben Hur, there is a lot of visual rhetoric.

First of all, the audience is white, American Christians. The actor’s the in the movie didn’t portray the typical Middle Easterner, the movie used American actors and was filmed in Hollywood, and the story takes place in the time of Christ and has His work and death as a central theme.

The first thing I noticed in watching the clip was the fact that you never see Christ’s face. This has the effect of two things the first being that Christ is so sacred that to have someone portray Him could be considered sacrilegious. The one that I believe the director was going for is that, while still a central and important figure within the movie, it was more important to see how He effects others, not how others effect him. This is obvious when Ben Hur kneels to Him to give him water and the look on Ben Hur’s face becomes one of disbelief, pain, awe, recognition and love.

This leads into another part of the visual rhetoric employed in the film—facial expressions. Ben Hur’s face goes through several dynamic expressions. The first time is when he sees Christ, recognizes Him, and then tries to repay His kindness and give Him water. Without words, Ben Hur’s face tells a story of its own. Ben Hur seems to finally come tot he recognition as he watches the Savior hang and die that this is the Christ. As his face goes from the dark into the light, and his face changes from one of agony to peace, it is so apparent that he finally realizes the truth.

The main theme of this scene is to portray that Christ died and the He is the Savior. He worked miracles, and lived by faith. His kindness touched many who, like Ben Hur, didn’t recognize him for what he was. And when He died many came to know the truth and the world mourned.

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