In Cool Hand Luke, Luke Jackson is sent to prison for cutting heads off of parking meters. The prison themed film symbolizes an analogy of Jesus. Luke’s atheism is expressed throughout several scenes, up until his rebellion is beaten out of him. The irony of the film occurs when he becomes a Christ-like figure to the other prisoners, his disciples.
Luke’s atheism is introduced as the prisoners run to the truck to get out of the rain and Luke stays. He stands in the rain, mocking God by awaiting an electric shock. Nothing happens. Luke’s non-belief is confirmed with his disappointment, when he is not striked. In another rain scene, he is informed about his mothers death. He plays his guitar while singing about a plastic Jesus on a dashboard of a car, in which he is comparing religion to plastic.
Visual symbolism is served after the egg eating scene. Luke claims he can eat 50 eggs in an hour. The other prisoners challenge him to this. After proving himself, he lies, exhausted on a table, with his arms stretched out. An overhead camera shot reveals one ankle crossed over the other, completing the crucifixion scene. After Luke’s second escape, he is brutely beaten by the guards. As he begs to not be hit again, he seems to express some desperate belief in God. In the end, he escapes a third time, to a church. There, he talks to God, offering a truce. The answer is a sheriff’s bullet through his throat and this helps him to finally find peace.
As the credits start to roll, the background is an intersection of two roads. The roads appear as a cross. This movie may appear to just be a prison-themed comedy but the symbolism throughout, throws in a ironic twist about Jesus and his disciples. Luke Jackson was remembered and honored by the prisoners, after his death, just as Jesus was with his disciples.
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