The best heroes get the best villains. In Indiana Jones’s case, not just Nazi’s, but the smooth, urbane French archaeologist who works with them to uncover the lost Ark of the Covenant; “a shadowy reflection” of himself.
Rene Belloq, played by Paul Freeman, is a wily character, letting Indy (Harrison Ford) do all the hard work to retrieve the idol from the booby-trapped jungle temple in the film’s opening mini-adventure. He is impeccably dressed, in crisp khaki drill, polished leather safari boots and pith helmet, while poor Indy tumbles out after being chased by the boulder, sweat stained and begrimed, covered in cobwebs. Just as Raiders is influenced by old serial adventures, Belloq looks like he has just stepped off an RKO sound stage. I bet he even smells great!
This learned larcenist has also taken the time to learn the difficult local native dialect and got the superstitious natives on his side. “Too bad you don’t speak Hovitos, ” he crows to Indy. Remember kids, even Indy in professor mode would agree, education is important! As Belloq turns away to gaze greedily upon the idol, Indy bolts for it. Belloq’s tame tribesmen look into his eyes like trained attack dogs, before he sends them chasing Indy through the jungle. All the better for him to slip away with his trophy, his mocking laughter echoing after them all.
When Indy and Belloq meet later in Cairo, again chasing after the same priceless object, Belloq is once more nattily dressed, giving Indy another lesson. “You and I are very much alike. Archaeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.”
He’s as driven as Indy. A cut line harking back to the jungle shows his insouciant attitude to the dangers he faces: “I was lucky to get away with my life. The Hovitos proved quite narrow-minded about the whole matter.”
Belloq proves quite protective and enamoured of Marion (Karen Allen) when she is captured by the Nazis. He enjoys flirtatious banter with her and unwittingly gets drank under the table by the hollow-legged former Himalayan tavern owner. Sharing a bottle of wine from his family vineyard, no less. Improbably, he has a fancy gown for her. “I would very much like to see you in it,” he smarms, copping a sly look in the mirror at her changing. Ah, the French…
His protection only goes so far, though, as the Nazis consign her to a horrible fate, sealed in the Well Of Souls with Indy. This page of the script shows Belloq’s equivocal feelings.
When Indy and Marion escape and cause chaos, Belloq’s exasperated “Jones!” underscores the deep rivalry between the two. His reactions during the truck chase are a great addendum to the stakes at play. And lets not forget his single-minded determination when Indy later pulls a panzerfaust on the column carrying the Ark to where Belloq will ceremonially open it. He doesn’t even flinch as a fly buzzes into his mouth, daring Indy to blow it up. He know our hero is in thrall to history as much as he is.
Belloq opens it in full Hebrew regalia, (always dressing for the occasion) reciting an Aramaic prayer that goes like this in english:
Not in human do I trust
And not on any child do I rely
In him [who] God is true
And whose Torah is true
In him will I trust
And to his name make precious praise.
That’s Belloq for you, covering all the angles, to God, no less. Some front!
But all good villains have to meet their end sometime, none more spectacularily then Belloq. Exclaiming of the spirits whisping around his face, emerging from the Ark, “They’re beautiful!” he soon screams in rigid terror as the “Wrath of God” comes down on him and his paymasters, before he explodes, Scanners style. Adieu, mon ami.
Originally posted 2013-04-28 11:34:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter