Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh is currently really busy working on the Cinemax series The Knick and serving as Director of Photography on Magic Mike XXL, but that doesn’t mean he can’t find the time to work on some side projects – like this awesome updating of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Soderbergh posted the entire movie – albeit in black and white and featuring nothing more than a soundtrack made up of instrumentals from Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch’s scores for The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – on his blog as an example of the importance of staging scenes. This is the latest filmmaking masterclass from the man who gave us Ocean’s Eleven – coming on the heels of his Psycho mash-up, and his Heaven’s Gate: The Butcher’s Cut. As always, aspiring filmmakers can learn a lot from reading Soderbergh’s thoughts, then watching the material as a lesson in craft.
With Raiders, Soderbergh has chosen to emphasize just how important staging (and, to a certain degree, editing) are. He’s effusive in his praise of Spielberg, saying the Jaws director "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)."
Steven Soderbergh reveals his thoughts on how important the physical structure of a sequence is when he writes, "I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount."
What we see in this updated version of the film is that Raiders of the Lost Ark really does work flawlessly with the sound off. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing – and I can understand if you don’t, because this is not only really geeky, but I think the soundtrack choices are more of a distraction than proof of Soderbergh’s greater point – just check out the opening set-piece with Indy taking the idol and outrunning the boulder in the cave. This sequence alone proves Soderbergh’s point that you always know where you are spatially within the scene composition regardless of how quick the cuts come. Michael Bay should be tied to a chair and forced to watch this for about six months, preferrably in a way inspired by Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange…
Since there are no embed codes for the video, you’ll have to swing by Soderbergh’s Extension 765 blog to view the full feature. While you’re there, be sure to check out some of his other posts, which not only showcase his considerable talents in editing, but could also serve as the basis for a college level course in the art of making movies. The best part? You won’t even have to pay outrageous film school tuition!