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Steven Soderbergh turns Raiders of the Lost Ark into a silent, black-and-white film

steven soderbergh turns raiders lost ark silent black white film of the
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Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh has periodically toyed with classic films in order to provide some insight on filmmaking philosophy, and his most recent project involved some impressive manipulation of a fan-favorite classic: Steven Spielberg’s franchise-starting 1981 Indiana Jones adventure Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Over at his website Extension 765, Soderbergh has stripped the sound and color from Raiders of the Lost Ark and replaced the film’s score with a new, electronic one intended to accentuate certain scenes in a more classic, silent-film style.

“I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are,” writes Soderbergh in his introduction to the project. “See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me.”

“I’ve removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect,” he continues. “Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit).”

Previously, Soderbergh created a mash-up of the original, 1960 Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock and Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot 1998 remake, as well as a recut version of Michael Cimino’s 1980 western Heaven’s Gate. His latest project, he explains, is all about giving the art of staging its due.

“Understanding story, character, and performance are crucial to directing well,” he writes, “but I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount (the adjective, not the studio. although their logo DOES appear on the front of this…).”

You can watch the full feature with Soderbergh’s sound and color edits over at the filmmaker’s site, as it’s not embeddable.

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Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
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