Recently I had been asked why Raiders of the Lost Ark should be considered as an artistic work. Despite the commercial success, writing, cinimatography, directing, acting, and cultural impact that this film has had over the past twenty-eight years, I believe there is supportive evidence mostly in its underlining theme of personna. The concept of Indiana Jones’ persona is perhaps the greatest binding aspect of his life that makes him relatable to our own lives; in essence, Raiders of the Lost Arc is a story about storytelling itself.
As in Hamlet, Harison Ford also plays a man grapling with meaning, rightousness, and sin within not only his life but in the metaphor of our own lives. This occurs mostly from the perspective that Indiana Jones has a compulsive lying disorder or at least creatively elaborates the truth. This is most evident after he returns from South America, unsuccessful in his attempt to recover a golden idol. I believe that the true identity of Jones is uncovered here where he is a fumbling professor needing an excuse to justify his failures at his job. In effect, we are Jones’ students captivated in awe while Marcus, his boss, merely states to Jones in more or less words that he has heard it all before (Marcus does not like tall tales).
It is in this created personna of Indiana Jones that the viewer relates, not in the super human achievement or the prevailer of unbeatable odds but in the stretching of the truth to no end. This is perhaps one of our most common threads as foulable humans, the ability to exagerate and find excuses and to justify our own faults into our own existence; we make ourselves the heros of our own stories exactly as Indiana Jones has done for himself.
Now you might be asking yourself what kind of unbearable truth about oneself would a person need in order to justify the need for a story involving the recovery of a sacred Jewish artifact that the Nazis were going to use to conquer the world and by doing so proving that anti-sematism is morally more wrong than what Indiana Jones has done? The answer stems from the fear in Jones’ eyes when called on by the government after he’s finished teaching his class and he exclames to Marcus,”What am I, in trouble?”
The answer and more next week.