Alphabetical Movie – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
While it is easily the second best Indiana Jones movie, Last Crusade is not without problems. In one aspect, however, it makes one of the best storytelling choices I’ve ever seen.
It’s a small choice but when I first saw the film, I was completely surprised by its simplicity. It is the sort of choice that must have been very easy to make and yet it was unusual enough to be a complete surprise.
I’m talking about the Holy Grail. Not the concept but the actual prop they used for the grail.
I know how minor a thing this is but it has always impressed me that it occurred to someone that the Jesus we read about in the bible wouldn’t be drinking out of a cup made of gold.
In fact, they think that point is so important, Ilsa says it out loud. “It would not be made of gold.”
She only gets to say one smart thing in the movie, so I remember it.
Jesus would not have drunk out of a solid gold chalice because he was poor. By choice. A lot like Jerry Fallwell.
Anyway, once it is established that the grail is not gold, the camera focuses in on a silver chalice and the viewer thinks “of course! It’d be made of silver!”
Then Indy’s hand thrusts in but remains out of focus for a moment. Then the focus shifts and we see him pick up a ceramic cup that looks pretty cheap. Not the sort of cup you’d expect the son of god to drink out of the night before he died.
Unless, of course, you remember that he was poor.
I’d been raised on images of the holy grail that looked like this:
For some reason, it never occurred to me to question that image. I should have though, because it makes no sense.
I mean, why the hell would Judas betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver? If he really needed money, couldn’t he have just sold the fucking grail?
Seems a whole lot easier.
But no, Indiana Jones finally pointed out to us that Jesus didn’t drink out of a cup made of precious metal. He drank out of a cup made of clay.
Whether or not the film was the first time anyone suggested this pretty obvious idea, it was the first time I was exposed to it.
And it was presented in a way that didn’t show how clever the filmmakers were (although they were definitely clever). Nobody said “hey look at how smart we are for figuring out the grail isn’t made of gold or silver!” No, they just had our lead character – an archaeologist and historian – grab the right kind of cup because if you are an archaeologist and historian, the choice ought to be pretty damned obvious.
Well done Indy. Well done.