In this episode of CineFix's Art of the Scene, we get to venture through the perilous temple featured in the opening sequence of Raiders to figure out exactly why the scene worked so well at not only exciting audiences, but setting up the rest of of the film.
There are so many great little tidbits of trivia to take away from the video that'll make you a formidable foe at any trivia night, like how sound designer Ben Burtt used the sound of the tires on his Honda Civic to create the sound of the boulder. But if you're interested in learning some real storytelling, cinematographic, and editing techniques to use on your own work, the video provides that as well.
For instance -- and this seems to be coming up a lot lately in the cinematic corners of the interwebs -- how to reveal your character to your audience for the first time. This is an important factor to consider as you write and shoot your projects, because -- well -- first impressions are super important, no? If you're dealing with a character like Indy -- cool, collected, and mysterious -- you're going to want to find a way to communicate those attributes in a more clever way than having Henchman #2 (thanking his lucky stars that he landed a speaking role) say, "Damn that cool, collected, and mysterious Indiana Jones! Damn him!"
In the opening sequence, Spielberg and Lucas use what CineFix calls "a surrogate" to the audience, or a character that is put in the scene to mirror the thoughts, emotions, and responses of the audience. This "surrogate", Satipo, played by Alfred Molina, is like, "Man am I nervous! This jungle is dangerous and I have no idea what's going on." The audience is like, "Yeah, I feel you, Satipo." Then, here's this mysterious, shadowy individual moving through the flora and fauna, successfully navigating the danger of the temple. Who is he? How is he so good at adventuring and avoiding certain death? He's so mysterious! (If you watch the opening sequence, you'll notice how there's always a shadow, either partial or complete, on Indy's face the whole time -- which is probably why Satipo carries the torch through the temple, even though he's not even the one up front leading the way.)
There is plenty more to learn from this opening sequence (and the entire film) about editing, pacing, building tension, and character development. I'd absolutely recommend sitting down with a notepad and watching Raiders this weekend, taking notes on how Spielberg and Lucas managed to craft such a fun and exciting film with one of the most loved characters of all time.
Or, if you just feel like vegging out and being entertained (but still learning stuff), you can just check out this video by ScreenCrush that shares 15 things you may not know about Raiders of the Lost Ark.
What filmmaking lessons have you learned from Raiders of the Lost Ark? Let us know down in the comments!