Musgrove: What's that supposed to be coming out of there?
Indiana: Lightning. Fire. The power of God or something.
Indy's troubled here, even though we know a few scenes later that he doesn't really believe. But the notion that the Nazis could get their hands on this, and that it might actually let them rule the world, is enough to give him pause. So there's at least an inkling of theology amid his hard science background.
"The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions. An army that carries the Ark before it… is invincible."
Marcus reiterates the stakes involved here, tied into whatever magic juju is in that gold box.
"For nearly three thousand years, man has been searching for the Lost Ark. Not something to be taken lightly. No one knows its secrets. It's like nothing you've ever gone after before!"
Beyond the stakes, there's the danger. Supernatural objects don't mean anything if we can't feel the threat they represent. We fear anything we don't understand and, to paraphrase Marcus, what we don't understand about this thing could just about fill the Grand Canyon.
"I don't believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus-pocus! I'm going after a find of incredible historical significance; you're talking about the boogeyman!"
Indy's skepticism here is really important because it sets him up for the undeniable power of the Ark at the end. He doesn't really believe that the Ark can harness the power of God. But judging by his earlier comments, could he be whistling past the graveyard? Can you have respect for beliefs you don't really hold yourself?
"If it is there at Tanis, then it is something man was not meant to disturb. Death has always surrounded it. It is not of this Earth."
Sallah ties the fact that the Ark is otherworldly with the very real possibility of death. Otherworldly on its own may be freaky, but it's not necessarily fatal. Sallah wants to make it very clear that poking at this thing could be seriously dangerous. The danger of disturbing something holy is a popular movie motif. You mess with the mummy's sarcophagus or the Native American burial ground or the wrong chalice at your peril.
"Jones, do you realize what the Ark is?! It's a transmitter! It's a radio for speaking to God! And it's within my reach!"
Unlike Sallah, Belloq's eager to see exactly what the Ark does. And notice that he describes it in mechanical terms ("transmitter" and "radio"). He doesn't feel the religious significance of it. He just wants to tap into the power that it holds.
"This is a warning not to disturb the Ark of the Covenant."
Each step, each stage along the journey that Indy takes, comes with a fresh warning. At this stage, Indy's still pretty blasé about it: He brushes past the warning and asks about the height of the staff. He's looking at it in mechanical terms, just like Belloq.
"Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This… this is history."
Note the messianic tone in Belloq's voice here. He's drunk the Kool-Aid, he buys the Ark's power, but he still only thinks in terms of the prize. To paraphrase another Indiana Jones movie, he's after the fortune and glory, not to bring himself closer to God's grace.
"Marion… don't look at it! Shut your eyes Marion; don't look at it no matter what happens!"
At long last, Indy embraces the notion that the Ark may be beyond human understanding, and his quick thinking keeps them from having their faces melted off. It's more than just the screenwriter writing his way out of trouble. The Bible has some pretty clear No Look/No Touch rules about the Ark. In order to view it, you had to be a priest and undergo a lot of very thorough cleansing rituals even to be allowed into the same room as the Ark. If you were naughty or didn't have permission, it was gonna get ugly. Lucky for Indy (and Marion), he paid attention during all those Sunday school lessons.
"They don't know what they've got there!"
The government has the Ark, and Indy's cranky because he thinks they're going to just go poking at it with sticks. How do you think Indy would feel if he knew that the Ark was going to get locked in a box and put somewhere where no one would ever find it? At this point, he's signed on to the Ark's supernatural power.
"If they knew we were here, they would have killed us already."
This is only the second line of the whole film (unless you count the terrified shrieks of the Peruvians with the donkeys), and it stresses how dangerous exploration can be. In a lot of Indy's adventures, "exploration" means "move quietly or hostile locals will kill you."
"Seńor… nobody has come out of there alive!"
Exploration means not just finding a place, but finding a place and returning to talk about it. That probably means stepping over the bodies of the people who came before you. Another favorite adventure movie motif: the explorer walking past the skeletal remains of his unfortunate predecessors.
"The Nazis have discovered Tanis!"
Notice that Indy is stressing a race here. Who gets there first is most important, and the Germans are already ahead of him. We see this a lot in real-world exploration too, such as Cook and Peary's race to the North Pole. Can't we all just share?
"What you did was you take this staff to a special room in Tanis, a map room with a miniature of the city all laid out on the floor."
Indy has the benefit of wrapping his exploration up in the Hero's Journey, which means he gets handy guideposts pointing toward his goal. Real explorers, unfortunately, rarely had an X to mark the spot like this one. It's also a nod to the scientific and astronomical expertise of ancient cultures, whom we sometimes think of only as primitive pagans.
"Abner was sorry for dragging me all over this earth looking for his little bits of junk!"
Beyond the physical risks to exploration, there are emotional risks too. Marion is clearly peeved that her father wasted her childhood exploring the world, and doesn't hold much respect for what he's found. If you go out into the unknown, you may hurt those close to you as much as yourself. Globetrotting isn't always glamorous.
"Perhaps the Ark is still waiting in some antechamber for us to discover. Perhaps there's some vital bit of evidence that eludes us."
Belloq has missed the Ark here because he's a cheater, using a replica of the headpiece GPS instead of the original. Exploration in Indy's world means you can't take shortcuts. When you do, you end up fuming helplessly at German commandants.
"What a fitting end to your life's pursuits. You're about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find."
Ah irony. Belloq finds it delicious that Indy will end his life of exploring by being sealed up and forgotten in a plundered tomb. Of course it doesn't happen, but it's the thought that counts—and a reminder of how dangerous the unknown can be.
"Would you be more comfortable opening the Ark in Berlin, for your Fuhrer, knowing only then if the sacred pieces of the Covenant are inside?"
Belloq makes a good point here: You can't go home until you've found what you're after. And if "home" means answering to one of the most evil human beings who ever walked the earth, you'd better be sure what you find will make him happy. Given what happens to Belloq and his Nazi pals, we kinda wish they had opened it in front of Der Fuhrer. Instead, we had to wait another 28 years for Quentin Tarantino to take care of it.
"Inside the Ark are treasures beyond your wildest aspirations. You want to see it opened as well as I."
A little insight can be devastating. Belloq knows of Indy's passion for intellectual discovery, and he's betting that it overwhelms his need for, well, anything else. Indy gives up his freedom, Marion's freedom, and any chance of getting the Ark to safety just to see what's inside. That's some heavy-duty compulsion, man.
"The Ark is a source of unspeakable power, and it has to be researched!"
This is a quiet transition from physical exploration of the outside world to scientific exploration of a specific phenomenon. The one leads to the other in this case: We found the Ark; now we have to study it. Pity the U.S. government has other ideas.
"The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions."
If we're talking big changes, then the Ark is clearly the tool to do it. Nothing like the power of creation to get rid of that pesky mountain range lying in your path.
"Think she'll still be with him?"
Indy's relationship with Marion is a key part of the story; namely, his jerk-boyfriend behavior and the ways he learns to turn it around. Here, we see that she's still on his mind, suggesting that maybe the big lug feels awfully bad about what he did.
"I was a child! I was in love! It was wrong and you knew it! You knew what you were doing. Now I do. This is my place. Get out!"
Marion's older and wiser. Indy's older, but not so much wiser yet. Feeling bad about your mistakes isn't the same as making them better, which takes more time and usually involves more groveling. The groveling process begins here with Marion venting all the bile she can muster at him. Even so, at least they're talking, which suggests that the necessary healing has begun.
"If I take you out of here now, they'll start combing the place for us!"
These two may be on the road to positive change, but Indy at least still has a few culs-de-sac to navigate. Specifically, he values the Ark more than her, which means leaving her in the hands of filthy, unwashed Prussians who might shoot her just to see if the gun works. Indy, this is serious Bad Boyfriend stuff. Knock it off!
"It was not I who brought the girl into this business."
Once again, Belloq knows how slide the knife between Indy's ribs. In this case, however he's right: Indy's responsible for involving Marion, which means he has to look inside himself to make the change.
"Look at this. It's worthless. Ten dollars from a vendor in the street. But I take it and bury in the sand for a thousand years, and it becomes priceless!"
Belloq cuts right to the heart of the matter by explaining how time and tide can turn worthless junk into thundering engines of unstoppable cool. Nothing strictly happens to the hypothetical watch he talks about, but there's a big change nonetheless. Belloq's referring to how unscrupulous some people can be in peddling antiquities real and fake and suggesting Indy's done that too in the past. The Ark changes that for Indy.
"Where'd you get this, from him? I was trying to escape, no thanks to you!"
Interesting response here: Indy's jealous! You wouldn't think so considering that he left Marion in the hands of the guy he's jealous of, but there it is. And like Marion's in Nepal, his anger represents the first step of real change, which ends with her forgiveness and drinks all around.
"You're not the man I knew ten years ago."
At long last, Marion has really begun to melt: acknowledging that Indy has changed and that she can care about him without risking a second broken heart.
"That depends on how reasonable we're all willing to be. All I want is the girl."
This is the final proof of Indy's transformation: a willingness to let the Nazis have the Ark if only Marion is kept safe. She matters to him more than it, and with that transition, Indy's path to BBB (better boyfriend behavior) is cemented.
"Come on, I'll buy you a drink. You know… a drink?"
Nothing says "successful completion of the Hero's Journey" more than a belt of whiskey courtesy of a pretty girl. We can't fault Indy for a last wistful look back, but it's clear that the most important prize has already been claimed, and that he's become a better man now than he was when we first met him.
"You could warn them… if only you spoke Hovitos!"
We're inclined to be a little easy on Indy here, since "Basics of the Hovitos Language" is rarely taught down at the local college. But it's hard to deny that a little book-learning would have come in very handy.
"There's only one place he can sell it: Marrakesh!"
Here we have a bit of street smarts on display: the sort of thing you can only learn by getting out there and grappling with life. The irony of this line is that Indy delivers it in the classroom, where knowledge comes in convenient books and the occasional cribbed test from that smart guy who lives down the hall.
"What you did was you take the staff to a special room in Tanis, a map room with a miniature of the city all laid out on the floor."
Indy delivers a rather elegant merging of his two types of knowledge: He's only read about the map room in a book, since it hasn't been uncovered for thousands of years. But in order to learn its secrets, he's got to get out of the library and actually find the thing.
"Jones, do you realize what the Ark is? It's a transmitter! It's a radio for speaking to God! And it's within my reach!"
Belloq doesn't reveal his hand very often, but when he does, it speaks volumes about who he is. He doesn't see the Ark as a paycheck, but as a way of increasing his knowledge. They don't get much smarter than God, after all, and Belloq is clearly very interested in hearing what The Almighty has to say. (That will change.) Contrast that with Indy, who seems less interested in the Ark's abilities and more on getting it back to collect dust in a museum.
"This for the old way, this mean six kadam high! Wait… and take back one kadam to honor the Hebrew God whose Ark this is."
A little lesson for the ADD among us: always read to the end of the sentence. It may hold something important.
"Besides, with the information in our possession, my estimations were correct!"
Contrast this with Quote #7. Belloq is frustrated because he can't find the Ark, but rather than admitting that he doesn't know what he needs to, he complains about how it "should have been" correct. Intellectual arrogance is thoroughly unbecoming, even in a fiendish villain.
"I don't know, I'm making this up as I go!"
The fool is the man who thinks himself wise, while the wise man knows that he is a fool. If Indy gains wisdom on his adventures (and what self-respecting Campbellian hero doesn't?), then this must be the first real sign of it: the fact that he doesn't have the first idea what he's doing.
"I am uncomfortable with the thought of this… Jewish ritual. Are you sure it's necessary?"
If Dietrich had done any reading, he'd know that you have to use a Jewish ritual to open the Ark, and you'd better have your karmic ducks in a row when you do. His ignorance sets him apart from Indy and Belloq, making him just a thug in a uniform rather than a worthy adversary. Nazis had a lot of "scientific" knowledge based on racist and hate-based beliefs.
"Marion, don't look at it! Shut your eyes Marion; don't look at it no matter what happens!"
In a weird way, this echoes Indy's earlier "I'm making this up as I go" line. He's wise enough to understand when knowledge has to take a back seat—he has to close his eyes rather than see what the Ark has to show him—and has the humility (wisdom) to accept it rather than fighting it. It's God after all; you kind of have to go with the flow.
"What do I want to see them for? What, am I in trouble?"
Americans have a deep-seated mistrust of their government, as Indy evinces here. The film also makes it clear that Indy is a mercenary working for the government: He's not an official agent. That in and of itself seems to reflect the high value Americans place on individualism, which ironically makes Indy more "American" than the army guys who hire him.
"It is as if the Pharaohs have returned!"
We get a little Third World commentary here: acknowledging the exploitation of the local natives by a European power that couldn't give two figs for their welfare. We don't know what the accident rate is on that dig, but we're betting the Egyptians get it much worse than the Germans.
"They have not one brain among them! Except one, he's very clever. He's a … French archaeologist."
Sallah draws a quiet distinction here by mentioning that the only smart guy is French, and by default, that the Germans are uniformly stupid. It separates the villains along national lines, suggesting that Belloq might not be as bad as the company he keeps.
"At this particular time and place, and for my work, they are necessary evils… not my friends."
Belloq is pretty quick to separate himself from the Nazis here, even going so far as to call them evil. You're probably not buying it, and neither is God. Belloq is lying to himself in order to excuse his behavior; he's an opportunist who aligns himself with whoever's in power at the moment. In the world of politics, you often have to tell yourself pretty stories like that in order to reach your goals. Just ask Vichy France.
"You are as stubborn as that girl! You like her too much I think."
Similarly, the Nazis don't think too much of this snooty Gaul whom they have to work with to get their mitts on the Ark. They take this special moment to put him in his place. And since the Nazis are sexist as well as racist, they subtly compare him to a woman. Franco-German relations may have reached a new low.
"I'm afraid we must be going now, Dr. Jones. Our prize is awaited in Berlin."
Dietrich, goose-stepping automaton that he is, stresses the political implications of the struggle here: The Nazis want the Ark to help them take over the world. It says more that Dietrich doesn't think of the Ark in any other terms, reducing its holy qualities to the level of a bomb or tank.
"Savage! We are not in a position to ask for anything."
The Nazi calls it like he sees it: lording over an all-black ship's crew with a sneer and a casual rattle of the saber to let them know he means business. Look closer and you'll spot some familiar class and race tensions peeking out of his dialogue.
"Would you be more comfortable opening the Ark in Berlin? For your Fuhrer?"
Belloq speaks to Dietrich in terms the German can understand: not "hey we get to talk to God!" but "your leader is going to be so cranky if this isn't genuine!" That's how you coerce people into doing what you want: a great example of political leverage in action.
"Then your Fuhrer has no prize!"
Indy's not as good at leverage as Belloq, but he understands that you have to speak to the Nazis on their own level. Threaten Dietrich with political fallout rather than appeal to his good graces. Nothing like mentioning "Der Fuhrer" to get a Nazi's attention. It's more likely to get Indy what he wants, and it might have worked if Belloq weren't onto his reindeer games.
"Fools! Bureaucratic fools!"
We come full circle, as Indy once again voices his distrust and contempt for the government of his country. Way to keep it real, big guy. We know you're an American now.
"Yes, the museum will buy them as usual, no questions asked."
Indy's a good guy, but as we observed in the "Cast" section, he's possessed of a little moral ambiguity. The lines are clearly drawn in this movie. It's just that some characters edge a little closer to them than others. Indy's willing to step into some shadows that another character, say, Sallah, wouldn't. Belloq plays a similar trick, which we'll talk about in a bit.
"They want you to get a hold of the Ark before the Nazis do, and they're prepared to pay handsomely for it."
The interesting part of this quote is the "prepared to pay handsomely" part. As if Indy is doing this solely for the money. Certainly there's a whiff of the mercenary to it, but Indy never talks about money at any other time. Again, it gives him a little moral shading without ever making us question whose side he's on.
"Fraulein Ravenwood let me show you what I am used to…"
As if the sight of a cackling man in black leather fingering an instrument of torture weren't enough. This is a pretty obvious quote, but notice how we don't actually have to see Toht do anything to show us how evil he is. It's all in the actor's delivery: that workaday casualness that says he does this sort of thing all the time. You don't have to show us anything more than that.
"I am a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me: to push you out of the light."
Belloq's exaggerating a little here, but he does understand the temptations of the Dark Side—the bad things Indy's done and might like to do—and the fact that Indy really doesn't like being reminded of that. In literary terms, that's one of the purposes of Evil: to tempt Good with the things that Good really wants in order to test Good's resolve.
"Boy they're not kidding, are they?"
This is a reflection of methodology rather than morals. The bad guys, aka the Nazis, are running around the countryside in tanks and Jeeps, ordering the locals around in huge groups and generally making a mess of things. Indy and Sallah, on the other hand, are like mice in a den of lions: sneaking around very carefully and trying as hard as they can not to draw attention.
"Only the mission for the Fuhrer matters!"
Thank you Dietrich for reminding us what authentic Bad Guy Dialogue is supposed to sound like!
"At this particular time and place, and for my work, they are necessary evils… not my friends."
Having tempted Indy in the bar with the allure of moral equivalency, Belloq suddenly draws a very clear line between himself and the "real" bad guys. Clearly, he's living in denial. He's going to hand the Ark over to them, after all, and his hypocrisy may be the most damning thing about him. Contrast that with Indy, who does a lot of soul searching in the film and confronts his failings rather than deny them like Belloq does.
"We have a place in the hold for you. Come on, go go go, my friend. Go!"
We're not sure what to make of Katanga initially. Is he going to be true to the cause of right, or will he grab what he can and run when the chips are down, just like Satipo? With this line, he silences our doubts and reminds us that everybody in Raiders eventually has to pick a side.
"Your persistence surprises even me. You're going to give mercenaries a bad name!"
This is a weird line and not just because the guy delivering it swallows a fly midway through. Belloq suggests that Indy's in it for the money (though he kind of is) and then shakes his head at how a guy supposedly cashing a check is willing to hang onto the side of a submarine to do right. Good guys, apparently, don't keep office hours.
What makes this a terrifying but wildly satisfying scene is that the bad guys get what's coming to them big time while the good guys survive. Not only that, but they get it from God Almighty himself. How validating is that for Indy?
"We have top men working on it right now. Top. Men."
We're not entirely sure that the two U.S. Army Intelligence offers are on team Good Guy here. What are they doing to the Ark? Why won't they tell Indy what's happening to it? Like the others, they eventually choose a side. Keeping the Ark locked up is probably the right call, but there's more ambiguity with them than perhaps any other figures in the film.