Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)

Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.

Just like any young boy, I was fascinated with Steven Spielberg when growing up. It was the first director I ever knew he was making films but he was not in front of the camera like the actors. My opinion of this director has been changing with the years. As much as I loved Jurassic Park, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the Indiana Jones trilogy, I've been struggling with his more serious films. With time, I learned to put aside the fact that he he is the kind of director with multiple personalities. The naive charm of his adventure/action films will compensate for his lack of talent at handling more serious subject matters. His subjectivity may or may not have tarnished his reputation but his talent will always be there.

With Raiders of the Lost Ark, a collaboration between George Lucas and Spielberg with the help of screenwriter Philip Kaufman, will lead to one of the most iconic films of all time. This without mentioning John Williams' legendary score for the thing. Add to that a friend of the Lucas/Spielberg family, Harrison Ford as the stellar character that will become Indiana Jones. 

Mr. Ford's ability to be the intellectual Prof. Jones but also the action hero of calm and courage, except for his fear of snakes, is now a pattern for many actors. He is the all American man, with a brain, wit, whip, and he doesn't fear to get his hands in the dirt. And he sure knows how to fight. 

One aspect of Raiders I often like to discuss is the opening sequence that is in itself a complete short film that presents the character of Indiana Jones. It is also very iconic, even The Simpsons have parodied it. 

As I already mentioned, Indiana Jones is an American hero. He fights Nazis and works for the US government to bring back the lost Ark that belongs now in the United States of America where no maligned or ill-intentioned nation will use it. There's all this symbolism with the Ancient Testament that is evoked in Raiders and it demonstrates how the success of this film is clearly linked with the American myth of the foundation of the USA but also how this country is the culmination or the end of the world. In fact, just like the Jews were running out of Egypt to find their promised land. Well, this promised land in Raiders is the USA.

As an archivist, the final shot of the film makes me laugh in its comment on how things are sheltered and relegated to the past when archived. So much is in the final minutes of Raiders that a short essay wouldn't summarizes it. 

I cannot say enough how I like this film and overly praising it would not be fair to anyone who hasn't seen it yet. But I highly recommend this yet entertaining and fun film.

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