Raiders of the Lost Ark — gods and sand

I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) on the big screen for the first time in ages tonight, and loved it. I could say lots about this film, but most of it’s already been said, by others and by me.

One thing did leap out at me, though, which had never occurred to me before. And that is the parallel between the opening sequence, in which Indiana Jones prepares to replace an idol with a bag of sand, and he lets the sand run through his fingers …

… and the bit near the end, when the Nazis open the Ark and find only sand inside, causing them to believe either that they haven’t found the true Ark, or that the Ark simply doesn’t live up to its supernatural reputation and has therefore been a waste of their time — and they, too, let the sand run through their fingers:

I don’t know how conscious this parallel was supposed to be, but, given how often the film contrasts scientific and mercenary skepticism with supernatural belief, it is interesting that the film begins with an image of a god being replaced by sand, and it ends with an image of sand being replaced by the power of God.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).