ARCHIVE FILE | Elias/Jesus Parallels

17 08 2008

In the last version of the Platoon script the only direct reference to Elias as Jesus-like figure is a line from his death scene: “Elias crucified.” The other one could be Barnes calling him a water-walker. O’Neill’s remark from the movie: “he thinks he is a f***** Jesus Christ” replaced the original: “he thinks he’s Cochise or something” (in the original script Elias was an Indian).

One can surely see some “unwritten” parallels — aside from the Elias being considered a manifestation of goodness as opposed to “evil” Barnes: 

Elias is a rebel, working against established structures — Jesus with his new ideas was a troublemaker in Palestina. Both had devoted followers/disciples. Both are nearly the same age: script Elias is 23, but Dafoe was 32 in 1987 as the film was shot. 

The “beautiful night” scene could be seen as the night at Gethsemane. According to the voiceover, several days passed before Elias was shot. Jesus was captured next day, but in the night both seem to express a dark foreboding about the future and their own fate. 

If the night scene contained all the dialog that was written for it — we’d also have a kind of resurrection. Elias talks about coming back as a deer, and after the final battle Chris sees a deer in the jungle. 

Elias and Jesus both died because of betrayal. Barnes wasn’t Elias’ disciple, but still he was a fellow soldier.

For some reason, the first time I’ve read about the Jesus connection, I instantly recalled the verse from Isaiah, 53:2: “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him”, which I found somehow fitting for the movie Elias (even if it surely doesn’t apply to the script version of the character) and “he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah, 53:4) which relates to Elias helping Chris with his overloaded backpack: “I’ll haul it for you”. The Bible resource

And of course there is the Last Temptation of Christ movie, with Dafoe playing Jesus and that “carrying cross” scene, which IMO is the weirdest parallel of all. I think those pictures say more than thousand words:

(The first picture is from the beginning of the movie, showing Jesus making crosses for the Romans)

If Temptation was made first, I would say Dafoe was purposely quoting it in Platoon. I still wonder if he could know in spring 1986 that he was considered for the part of Jesus. And could he know production details about the crucifixion? Temptation was shot in fall 1987 (source), but it was another project with very long forerun*, so IMO it’s theoretically possible. If it wasn’t the case, the serendipity is just mind boggling. (And I will forever regret I haven’t asked Dafoe about it having the chance) bang.gif image by alveni

Note: the way of carrying a “cross” as shown in the Jesus photo is (most probably) historically correct, but not necessarily iconic — it’s not what first comes to your mind when you think of “carrying a cross”, at least it wasn’t so in my part of the woods. What I thought about first was THIS.  I suspect it’s just the best way of carrying heavy loads, so the similarity is not necessarily intended. The allusion to Christ in that scene is IMO not alone the way of carrying the MG but that Elias carries it at all. He was a squad leader, nor a machine gunner: he carries that M60 for some of his inferiors, probably King. It’s another “I’ll haul it for you/carrying our sorrows” situation not required by the script. It’s not even logical as King was surely big enough to carry both the MG and Elias. 🙂

Ah, yes, one more detail from the death scene. If you look closer you can easily see that Dafoe has triggers in both hands (they were supposed to set off the explosives on his body, but didn’t work). When he stretches his arms toward the sky, the trigger in his right hand looks like a nail sticking out. (I wonder if this image could cause some subliminal reaction and that’s why people were thinking of him as a Jesus figure)


* The Last Temptation of Christ was a project which spent a long time in the drawer, was recast for several times and finally shot with very small budget because of the controversy surrounding the subject.

%d bloggers like this: