contain a huge amount of references to a fistful
of classical movie directors: John Ford, Howard
Hawks, Victor Fleming, David Lean, etc.
Recently, we have evoked the Hitchcock
influences on Spielberg in Raiders
of the Lost Ark. This movie had been chosen
among others, as an example, because this effect
can be noticed through Spielberg's whole filmography.
On the contrary, despite his considerable influence
on Spielberg, classical director Cecil B. DeMille
is obviously referenced in just a couple of films.
Such allusions appear first in Close
Encounters of the Thrid Kind (CE3K)
(1). But the
most important references come into view in Raiders
of the Lost Ark: in a formal way, through
the use of a distorted logo (2),
and with a similar thematical approach, depicting
Indiana Jones as a Champion of Yahweh(3).
1. The CE3K precedent
Four years before
Raiders of the Lost Ark, in CE3K,
Spielberg had already referred to DeMille, twice
in the same scene: in the evening, at Roy Neary's
home, the children are watching The
Ten Commandments on TV. And later, Roy
tries to explain arithmetics to his elder son
by creating an accident, on the miniature train
set lying on the living room table.
& miniature train accident in CE3K.
Actually, when he discovered DeMille's
The Greatest Show on Earth in a theatre,
10-year-old Spielberg was mostly impressed by
the Barnum train accident.
And filming miniature train accidents
became one of the boy's first occupations when
he got the permission to use his father's camera.
So, during the opening gambit of Indiana
Jones and the Last Crusade, we shouldn't
be surprised to discover that the train on which
Young Indy climbs is the train of a circus.
Moreover, Spielberg is well known
for his recurrent use of cloud effects in order
to visualize a divine intervention. In CE3K,
the arrival of Mother Ship over Devil's Tower
is concealed by a huge wave of clouds. This reference
illustrates a topic similar to The
Ten Commandments' theme: a man climbs up
a mountain and there encounters God.
Mount Sinai and Devil's Tower.
This very DeMille's religious reference
is important because it announces much more sensitive
ones in Raiders of the
2. Distorted logo
The first shot of Raiders
of the Lost Ark consists in a distorted
logo of Paramount Pictures.
shot of Raiders.
Let's notice that, when the movie
was released, in 1981, the Paramount had been
using another logo for six years.
Raiders of the Lost Ark should have begun
with this picture. But Spielberg creates an original
Paramount logo, deeply inspired by the 1954-1975
one. This anachronism is not fortuitous.
Actually, the shape of the mountain
on the more recent logo does fit much more the
shape of the peruvian mountain, in Raiders'
first picture. But Spielberg preferred to use
the older one to make the first visual distorted
logo of his career.
Nowadays, the distorted logo is
frequently used. It was not 25 years ago. And
before Spielberg, it was rare. A few directors
used it once through their whole filmography,
hardly twice, never more. One exception needs
to be pointed out: Cecil B. DeMille begins three
of his movies with the distorted logo of the same
major company, Paramount:
(1949) - this distorted logo does not appear
on every copy of the film.
Greatest Show on Earth
So, this is not accidental that
Raiders of the Lost Ark
begins with a distorted logo of Paramount Pictures.
By doing so, Spielberg creates a subtle relationship
between DeMille's movies and Raiders,
by placing his film on the track of the same popular
This is mostly significant concerning
The Ten Commandments:
from a distance of 3000 years, this movie and
Raiders both tell
the history of the same religious artifacts :
the Tablets of the Law and the Ark of the Covenant
– the chest that contains them.
3. Indiana Jones, another Champion of Yahweh
of the Lost Ark, two scenes use cloud effects
similar to the one mentioned in
- The storm over the Well of the
Souls, as Indy unearths its entry.
- Yahweh capturing the impure
bodies and souls of the Germans, at the end
of the Ark opening scene.
the Well of the Souls
and end of the Ark opening scene.
These pictures stand for references
to the cloud movements over the Red Sea, at the
end of The Ten Commandments.
Clouds over Red Sea.
Despite their similar cloud effects
suggesting the same DeMille's movie, the premises
of CE3K and Raiders
us a man finding his way to God. It is almost
a contemplative movie! Roy Neary is a chosen one,
he searches God, he meets Him and leaves earth
bound for Heaven. He has no mission to fulfill.
Just answering the call for godliness.
On the contrary, Raiders
tells us the story of a fight. Jones is a chosen
one too: he has been called by God (well... through
the army intelligence services) but he remains
on earth. Indy surely serves God (and he will
serve the Old Man again two years later). So Jones
must be considered as a Champion of Yahweh, just
like two Jewish heroes described in the Holy Scriptures
and Cecil B. DeMille's movies.
Besides the cloud effects, the
Red Sea sequence in The
Ten Commandments shows us, the jewish hero
standing in the foreground. Same representation
with Spielberg. The hero in the foreground is
not jewish but he will be saved because, through
his fight against the Nazis, he deserves to be
considered as a part of the chosen people.
of God flooding impure bodies
and souls of the Egyptian- & Nazi soldiers.
The main difference
between the two scenes lies of course in the
form of God's power: the water vs. the fire. But
this destructive fire
evokes obviously another form of God's intervention
in The Ten Commandments.
It is such a flame that carves the Tablets of
the Law on Mount Sinai and retains the Egyptian
soldiers as the Hebrew cross the Red Sea.
And Moses is not the one to be
compared to Jones, because of his holy fight.
Let's remember when Indy makes
the huge statue of Anubis fall and destroy a wall
in the Well of the Souls. In the original screenplay,
Lawrence Kasdan had imagined the fall of a simple
pillar. But Spielberg had replaced it by the statue
of Anubis. Is it just an aesthetic choice? Maybe
statue of Anubis in Raiders.
At the end of DeMille's Samson
and Delilah, Samson (Victor Mature) is
chained to the pillars of the philistine temple.
But thanks to his strength, the jewish hero breaks
two columns and so makes the statue of Dagon fall
and destroy the whole temple, over the pagans.
statue of Dagon in Samson
Seeing Samson destroying the pillars,
a Philistine says the Jew has got the strength
of a demon. But the Saran of Gaza (George Sanders)
corrects him "No, the strength of a god".
And when God's power is at work,
Samson doesn't see it. Remember: at the end of
the movie, he's blind! That's why Jones shuts
firmly his eyes in order not to see the unchained
power of God emerging from the open Ark.
Furthermore, blinded Jones and Samson even tell
their partner how to be saved from God's wrath.
Marion vs. Samson telling Delilah
to "close her eyes" in order to
In the Book
of Samuel, the Bible tells us about the Philistines,
stealing the Ark of the Covenant and bringing
it to the temple of Dagon. So Jones does the same
thing as Samson: he makes a gigantic pagan god
statue fall and destroy the temple where a pagan
civilization had brought the Ark they stole to
of the Lost Ark is such a masterpiece,
it surely owes it to a strange alchemy: Cecil
B. DeMille was a deep Christian movie maker; however,
at that very time of his life, Spielberg was not
keen on considering his jewish inheritance.
of the Lost Ark comes out as an ecumenical
movie and Spielberg's first step of on the path
of belief: it shows the fight of a christian unbeliever
(Jones) gaining faith by saving the Ark of the
Hebrew. And twelve years later, a former jewish
agnostic will tell the story of a Nazi who opened
the Blood Sea and saved hundreds of Jews.