I first saw “Indiana Jones” in my early twenties. I wasn’t pleasantly shocked by the movie, but I somehow liked it. At that time I was interested mostly in art films, with a twist for Russian directors and I think my all time best movie was Stalker by Andrey Tarkovski. The difference between movies like “Indiana Jones” and “Stalker” is huge, but somehow “Indiana Jones” made it to my list of preferred movies. I always had a good feeling about it, despite the fact that some of my friends still think this is a movie for people under the age of 12.
Well, I don’t think that. Although there are a lot of compromises made for box office, the movie has something very real and true. Its huge success must have something beyond the Hollywood hype. You can’t just assume that hundreds ofÂ millions of people liked the movie only because of the special effects or big budget production. You can’t also put it only on Harrisson Ford, although he made a pretty decent job. There must be something beyond all those commercial constructs, something that made the movie so highly popular.
Today I saw “Indiana Jones 4” in full HD. I did see the movie before, but that was on the plane for my trip to New Zealand. Seeing a movie on a transcontinental plane is not quite a cinematographic experience, but mostly a boredom killer. Seeing it today in a very friendly and technically upgraded environment was a pleasant experience.
And I started to recall all of the similarities between the various sequels of “Indiana Jones” over the time. There are quite a few things almost identical in all those movies, a part from Harrisson Ford being Henry Jones, of course.Â I’m sure those things repeated again and again are responsible for the constant success of the movie. Some of them are just “fast food media”, as I like to call them, like fighting and big machinery. But some of them are carrying very deep and perennial values.
This post is an exercise to describe the “real life values” in “Indiana Jones”. I don’t want to make a movie review, there are a lot of other places where you can find that type of content. I also don’t want to put Steven Spielberg on a pedestal here, I think he’s a very good movie man (director, producer, etc) but I won’t hold him responsible only for the good stuff. The things that I’m going to talk about are so deep in the human nature that they just had to find a way to express., regardless of the person who made them possible.
In fact, I’m going to use “Indiana Jones” as a pretext for something much more difficult to digest. If you’re ready, I’ll start right away with the appetizers:
Indiana Jones is a teacher. A person considered either extremely boring by the teens, either extremely precious by the oldest. It’s not at all a role model figure as a teacher. In fact, he’s talking about boring things and his students seem most of the time disconnected. When they are not total groopies, of course, but those are the students who knows about “the other side” of Mr. Jones.
That other side is wearing an adventure hat, is holding a whip and is living a tremendously adventurous life. This is the “hidden” part of Indiana Jones. A part that always brings good over bad, a part who’s fighting like a boxer, not like a teacher, a part who stumble upon fantastically beautiful women, and finish most of the time by getting worshiped by them.
This polarization is what made the hero popular. The fact that there is another “hidden” and most of the time, far better, part inside of a person is something extremely powerful. It doesn’t had to be proved all the time, the simple fact of showing this puts a very strong message: you can do it too.
This message is subliminal. Meaning it is transmitted in a non-standard way, most of the time by making use of the subconscious mechanisms. In fact, each time you look at somebody else you try to find the similarities or differences between you and that person. It’s a natural process and it’s part of our survival techniques. So, each time when you look at Indiana Jones, you’ll find a boring part, but also a hidden, far more interesting part that gets all the fun. Doesn’t matter if you have this part inside you, the simple proof of this potential manifested in the on screen character is enough to make the subconscious thrill.
There is never, nowhere in the movie a direct reference to this subliminal message. But it wouldn’t be subliminal if it would be direct, isn’t it?
So, the real life value represented by the hero would be: “you have endless possibilities, despite your current, limiting environment“.
Each “Indiana Jones” movie has a similar plot. The factual story varies from movie to movie, but the scenario is always the same. And by scenario I understand the way the viewer is immersed in the movie.
Each film starts with a 15-20 minutes short and most of the time violent adventure. Each opening shows the hero in an apparently desperate situation. After a sequence of harsh and sometimes hilarious actions, the hero gets out of the clench, and returns to what we know is his real life. Every “Indiana Jones” has this part.
During my University of Letters stage I studied various writing techniques. The opening of a speech, for instance, is called in latin “captatio benevolentia”. In other contexts is called just “elevator pitch”. Whatever you may call it, this is the part where your potential receptors, being them listeners of a speech, spectators of a movie, or VC’s willing to invest in your project are captured or not by your message. This is the most important part of a narration.
The “captatio benevolentia” for “Indiana Jones” is always a short and almost meaningless adventure, which has only the role of putting the big adventure in context. The real adventure starts only once the character is in its familiar environment. In same cases, the first short adventure has nothing to do with the main movie intrigue.
The message for this part is: “there is always something bigger beyond your expectations“. The first adventure is interesting, but is only a door opened to something bigger. Again, this is a subliminal message. If it wouldn’t be so programatically present in all the movies, I wouldn’t thought at it in this way. I would just call it a scenario twist. But the way it is used in all 4 movies is making me think at something well thought in advance.
Beyond every little thing lies something much more deep. Every little situation of your life hides something more powerful than you think. This is the message of the plot, and again, it’s a powerful and perennial message.
The hero of the movie, a part from his boring/adventurous polarization, has another very interesting property. Indiana Jones never knows how is going to solve a situation. He never knows in advance what he is going to do. Improvisation is his second nature.
What he knows for sure, is that he’s determined to succeed. The only thing that drives him in action is his enormous trust in his powers and his desire to overcome obstacles. Which seem to develop quite and addiction for him, if we’re talking about that…
The only arsenal Indiana Jones is carrying is a whip. From time to time he’s carrying a gun, but that’s only in intense conflict scenes. The icon image of the characters depict him with the famous hat and the whip. Indiana Jones doesn’t have a lot of resources, but he’s extremely resourcefulness.
This main quality of the character is another powerful and perennial message. You only need trust and desire, and you’ll eventually reach your goal. You only have to know where you’re heading, to want to get there with all your being, and you’ll find the way. Indiana Jones is a master of opportunities seizing. And, quite often, a very lucky man.
The message here is what Law Of Attraction says: “establish your goals, follow them wholeheartedly, and you’ll attract the means“. Every single thing around you can be of use at some point in your life and Indiana Jones, the hero, is probably the best example of what you can do by improvising in order to achieve your goals. And yes, sometimes this is called luck. Accept it, you deserve it.
Making Inner Peace
Indiana Jones is an archeologist. Most of the time he finds old stuff and puts it back where it belongs. And in the process of putting back things where they belong he usually stumbles upon bad people. All those people are somehow eliminated by the end. Every “Indiana Jones” is a happy-end movie.
Of course, there is a box office reason behind this. Happy-ending movies are doing far more better than tragic movies, that’s a fact. I’m not going to argue with anybody on this one. What I am going to tell you though, is that the profession of the main character and the happy-ending are extremely related.
Every archeologist is trying to discover parts of a larger culture, remains of lost civilisation. But this questÂ of the archeologist is nothing but a continuous search for lost pieces of himself. On a symbolical level, archeology is a science of finding lost parts of yourself.
Each lost archetype in every “Indiana Jones” movie has the connotation of a lost identity. The quest for finding it and putting it back where it belongs is a quest for inner peace. Every object Indiana finds is in fact a part of his being that must be reconnected with the bigger him.
In this light, the happy-ending is in fact the celebration of an epiphany. This is why the bad people are eliminated in the end. They have to, they were standing between Indiana and that part of his being that needed to find its place. Needles to say that this message of the movie is powerful and perennial. Each movie is in fact the journal of a journey that says: “I’m going to bring inner peace into my life. That’s my ultimate goal“.
Hold your horses, I’m not gonna say “Indiana Jones” is the best personal development movie you can get. The things I’ve talked about are just a few gold nuggets lying in piles of dust. In order to make this message pass through, Spielberg made a bunch of ugly compromises.
Some of them are: shallow (and most of the time hilarious) dialogs, heavy use of violence, fantastic machinery and incredible pursuits in the most unexpected places you can get: coal mines, jungles, desert, you name it. These are ingredients for every successful modern movie, and because “Indiana Jones” is such a successful movie, their part in the series is also huge. I’m not buying into this part, not at all.
But despite those compromises, the message passes through.
Or maybe it isn’t and I’m just deluding myself, believing that behind a super production is something more powerful and deeper. Well, whatever.
You know what they say: after all, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 🙂