Having semi-retired from film-making, Steven Soderbergh is now free to tinker in his garden shed. His latest experiment? To take on this classic adventure story and turn it into a black and white silent movie.
Writing on his own website, the director says “I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off.”
To illustrate his point, he’s stripped Raiders of the Lost Ark of all its colour, replaced John William’s famous soundtrack (and Indy’s infamous one-liners) with his own moody choice of tunes and turned it into a dreamy black and white silent film. Wait! What? How could he DO this?
According to Soderbergh, it’s for educational purposes only. But what could we possibly learn from this movie we’ve seen a million times before?
Loads, in fact. Soderbergh’s done it to show people just how well ‘staged’ Spielberg’s film is – a term that refers in cinema to “how all the various elements of a given scene or piece are aligned, arranged or co-ordinated.”
Soderbergh wants us to watch the black-and-white Raiders and “think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are.” And indeed, in black and white, without the colours or the sound, you start noticing things you’ve never noticed before.
Like the “stark, high-contrast style” of cinematographer Douglas Slocombe. Or just how fast-paced the cutting is in the rolling ball scene. Or the way the Nazis jiggle about in the back of the truck. How very dark, spooky and heavily influenced by 1930s movie style it is. All the eyes peering out from darkly lit corners. Or even just how striking Harrison Ford’s face is; all those overblown facial expressions suddenly start to make sense.
Soderbergh praises Spielberg, saying “no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit”
Praise indeed. Go on. Have a look. At some point, you will say to yourself THIS LOOKS AMAZING. You can watch it here.
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