Ben Hur

Ben-Hur riding on a chariot with the slogan "Brother Against Brother. Slave Against Empire."

Yup. Have to. Because I loved this movie and I have to shout it out. First of all, don’t listen to the negative reviews. Who knows what the critics are thinking? Maybe they’re as tired of remakes as I am. But this is more a new interpretation of the novel. The novel? Yeah, I didn’t know…

With Roma Downey and Mark Burnett as producers, you can pretty well expect an uplifting message. A few of the actors are celebrities here in the States, but it was refreshing to see so many fresh faces in the cast.

In case you are unfamiliar, Ben Hur is the story of a Jewish prince, at the time of Christ. Judah Ben-Hur’s family adopts a Roman orphan, Mesalla. They grow up as brothers and best friends. Due to his orphan past, Mesalla becomes increasingly restless, as he ponders his place in the world. His love for Judah’s sister is frowned upon by their mother, so he eventually sets out to join the Roman legion and pursue his fortune.

When Mesalla returns, he asks for Judah’s help in keeping the peace for the arrival of the new Roman governor. Instead, Judah protects a Jewish assassin, by taking the blame for an attempt on the life of the governor. An angry Mesalla betrays Judah to a long, slow death as a galley slave.

There is plenty of action. Judah’s escape from the galleys and near drowning; Mesalla’s battle exploits; the chariot race.

The chariot race. Possibly the highlight of the entire film. Even though you know how it turns out, getting there keeps you on the edge of your seat. The horses are fantastic and every precaution was taken to ensure their safety during filming. The actors insisted on performing nearly all the race scenes themselves, instead of letting the stuntmen have all the fun. The Roman Circus was a place of blood and violence, and the chariot race delivered. Even without fake blood spurting on the screen, there was plenty of gory death as charioteers were systematically ejected and trampled.

In the end, hatred and revenge give way to forgiveness and reconciliation, largely due to chance meetings with Jesus. As it should be.

Go see it today and support good, clean, uplifting filmmaking!

Currently in theaters.

 

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Love Amid The Ashes

I found this book in our public library’s NEW section.  Looking at the title I thought ‘ick, another Harlequin or Avon romance type’.  But the cover illustration drew me in, and I picked it up and read the back, then glanced inside.  Hooked, and intrigued by our librarian’s seemingly sudden propensity for Christian fiction, I checked it out at the desk.

Set in Uz, (actual location lost, but several possibilities in Middle East) Love Amid the Ashes interlaces the Biblical stories of Job, Jacob and Esau, Joseph (of the many colored coat), the migration of the Hebrews to Egypt, and Dinah (sister of Joseph), in a very compelling way.  By the end, I was ready to reread the book of Job, and start my own investigation to see if I could pick up on the threads Mesu Andrews so skillfully weaves together from the Bible as well as other ancient texts and rabbinical tradition.

As Dinah nurses and cares for Job during his long suffering, the story of her ill fated love, betrayal by her vindictive brothers (the same ones who sold Joseph into slavery) and her subsequent rejection by her clan as “ruined” is presented.  The distinctive stories finally combine in Egypt, when it is discovered that the great vizier and “Father of the Pharoah” is none other than Joseph himself.  Job and Dinah’s tale comes to a gratifying conclusion and the reader is left hungry for more.

A little research on the internet and a look into Biblical, as well as ancient Egyptian timelines, convinced me that Ms. Andrews did, in fact, do her homework.  That yes, it is just possible that these stories which we normally take separately in the Bible and in history, could maybe have intersected with each other in this or some other way.  Which makes it all the more fascinating for me.

Love Amid the Ashes, by Mesu Andrews, (c) 2011, is available from http://www.revellbooks.com/ and other booksellers.

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