This year, instead of making feature films, Steven Soderbergh has taken to stripping old ones of color and using them to teach the internet world something about film.
His latest project takes on Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, and leaves the 1981 classic black and white, without any of its original sound. Soderbergh’s version of the film is like a silent 1930s adventure film with an ambient electronic music score—Soderbergh uses Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor music to guide us through the film and help us “focus”.
On his website, Soderbergh makes a note “This posting is for educational purposes only.” Cue, enter students. Soderbergh wants us to focus on “staging”. He claims he stripped Raiders of the Lost Ark of color, not to say he’s against color, but to help us fixate on Spielberg’s staging of the film.
“I value the ability to stage something well because when it’s done well its pleasures are huge,” Soderbergh writes. He goes on to explain how difficult staging is to master, and promises that “At some point you will say to yourself or someone THIS LOOKS AMAZING IN BLACK AND WHITE.” Which, after watching some of the edit, I am here to confirm THIS LOOKS AMAZING IN BLACK AND WHITE.
So begins a free lesson on film from a filmmaker who, like all great filmmakers, just does what he wants—Soderbergh admits he’s not necessarily “allowed” to do this, but that it’s what he does to think about staging. Our assignment: “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.”
You can take this on, and watch Soderbergh’s edit of Raiders of the Lost Ark in full here. Also check out some stills below.