Imagine watching your favorite movie in black and white without ?dialogue.
What would change? You would certainly notice things you hadn’t noticed before: the nuance of the actors, the subtlety of the director’s choices in lighting, staging, etc., the austerity of the colorless world in which the film exists and many other things.
Or you would get bored.
This is precisely what director Steven Soderbergh did to the 1981 Spielberg classic “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
This raises the question: is it a gimmick or an act of genius?
I say it’s genius.
In the humanities, we’re constantly challenged with the idea of different perspectives toward a work of art, whether that art be a painting, novel, film or something else.
Time and time again, I’ll read something a critic or a peer says, and it makes me think about a work of art in a completely different way.
What Soderbergh did is exactly this.
Except he went about it in an unusual way.
Instead of writing an essay about the complexities of the mise-en-scène during the fight on the Flying Wing, he’s showing us how and why it is complex.
This showing and not telling is something that’s nearly impossible to do in criticism.
In narrative, writers are constantly told to show, not to tell, but how can you do that in a critical essay?
Just like this. And it’s a whole lot more fun than an essay. It’s more informative, too.
But it’s not like a lot of people are going to watch this.
Soderbergh didn’t make this cut for its entertainment value.
This is for critics and super-fans who’ve seen the original cut hundreds of times.
So we need to be aware of the context and remember this isn’t an entertainment piece.
Whenever you re-watch a movie, you will no doubt notice things you didn’t notice before.
Soderbergh’s cut just amplifies this. It gives viewers a new window to look through.
It’s like reading a classic like “Great Expectations” then reading a bunch of Marxist theory, then reading the novel again.
Your perspective will change a bit. You’ll be enlightened.
There are a lot of different perspectives out there.
We’re just too stubborn in our own ideologies to listen to most of them.
The fact that Soderbergh had to edit his own cut of a classic film kind of speaks to this. Humans are a pretty self-important species. We tend to think our own opinions are the only ones out there or, at the very least, the best ones out there.
Soderbergh’s cut of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is available for free on his website extension765.com . I encourage you to watch just a few minutes of it, and I guarantee you’ll find something new.