Film Scene Analysis: the rowing scene from Ben-Hur.

Essay by highflying10University, Bachelor'sA+, April 2003

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Analysis of a Film Scene

Movie: Ben-Hur

Director: William Wyler

About 30 minutest in the film, the protagonist, Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is taken as a prisoner. He soon finds himself on the lower level of a battleship rowing with the rest of the prisoners.

The establishing shot consists of an objective point of view of battleships on the sea. The dozens of ores moving the boat are clearly seen. This sets up the place and situation for the scene.

Next, Wyler cuts to a high angle shot of the doorway leading to the lower room of the ship where the prisoners are rowing. A commanding officer is seen walking away from the camera and into the room as the view is lowered. This gives the audience the impression of going down low to a somewhat eerie area: the "dungeon" of the ship.

A medium shot catches the officer walk in covered in shadows, perhaps to signify the evil he is about to display.

Also, deep-focus photography is used for the audience to see many rows of sweating prisoners clearly suffering below them and the officer. Between two sections of rows of rowers, is an isle where guards pace with their whips. Their entire bodies are clear except their faces, which are kept shadowed to display the hopelessness of Ben-Hur's situation. He must sit there and slave for unrecognizable figures although he is innocent. He cannot make any pleads or appeals to the faces he cannot see. Yet the have to power to hurt him and control his fate.

At the same time, the audience becomes aware of the constant drum banging. An assigned officer sits in front of the prisoners beating the drum for the rowing to keep a steady pace. The thumping noise creates a sense of seemingly...