How Does Steven Spielberg Gain the Attention of the Audience In ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’

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In 1981, the film ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc,’ the fast-paced cliffhanger, non-stop action/adventure was released and became a massive summer hit! The film was produced by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg. The audience loved it but the critics hated it! To them it was just another stereotype action movie with a rugged-looking hero and the capture of a beautiful girl. Obviously, though, the audience took a different view. They loved the non-stop, breathtaking adventure because it was predictable. It was humorous because the film was so unrealistic. The audience especially liked this film because they like to think they know what is going to happen next.

I think Spielberg creates a successful opening sequence because he establishes the genre straight away. We immediately know that the film is an action/adventure film because the group is trekking through the Amazon jungle being followed by enemies. They are on a quest to retrieve a small gold idol. This quest would, in most films, be the climax of the story. In this film, it is only the introduction so not only does the opening sequence introduce the characters and set the scene (genre) but tells you to expect a lot more action. It leaves the audience on the edge of their seats and makes them want to keep watching.

The opening sequence starts off with Indiana Jones and two Peruvians trekking through the jungle. One of the Peruvians pulls back some branches to discover a horrific stone statue. He screams and runs off into the jungle. As they trek further into the undergrowth, Barranca, one of the Peruvians, reaches for his gun to kill Indy and end the mission earlier than planned. Fortunately, Indy hears the gun click, extends the bullwhip he always carries with him and coils it round Barranca’s wrist. The gun falls into the river and goes off, harmlessly. Barranca runs off into the jungle.

Sapito, the other Peruvian, and Indy locate the idol within a cave, lined with booby traps. This adds more suspense and excitement to the film. Due to a miscalculation, the whole cave starts to self-destruct. In a dash for the exit, Sapito double-crosses Indy and escapes. Indy is left to jump over a pit. When he turns the corner, he finds Sapito has been killed by a booby trap. Indy collects the idol and escapes the cave.

Outside the cave, Bellocq, a contemporary of Indy, accompanied by a native tribe, the Hovitos, takes the idol. Indy grabs an opportunity to escape which leads to a chase out of the jungle. Indy escapes, miraculously unharmed, on a plane piloted by an Englishman, named Jock. The plane flies of into the sunset, ending the introduction to the film. Read about the film Saving Private Ryan

The fact that Sapito dies after double crossing Indy, who escapes unharmed, suggests that the underlying morality of the film is that a wrong has been corrected through Sapito’s death – Sapito double crossing Indy was the wrong then Sapito dies which amends this wrong.

This is also the case in the opening sequence when Barranca tries to kill Indy. The hero always comes out better than the villain, introducing Indy’s character to the audience helping them to see Indy as a brave, successful archaeologist. This also allows them to expect Indy to beat off villains later on in the film. That is part of the reason why the film is so predictable.

There are no women in this part of the film because they are usually not associated in a stereotypical action/adventure film. Women usually become the prize. We know that in this case, the film was set at the time of the World War so women had a lower status in society therefore would not be given a lead role as a heroine because it was men doing all the hard work – fighting the enemy. Critics would probably not agree with this because they are always looking for a new point of view so all though it may apply to the audience, the critics would be analysing the film in detail looking for a different approach. They would want women to have a main part at the start of the film to make it different and get away from the stereotypical action movie.

Spielberg uses mis-en-scene to establish the genre. He uses iconography associated with action adventure films. In the 1st scene, backpacks, sleeping gear, the map and the fact that the characters are quite scruffy suggests to the audience that they are on a trek through a desolate place, where there is no place to stay and no food or water. In the 2nd scene, a flame torch, spiders, cobwebs, boulders and an untouched gold statue suggest that they are in a place that no-one has been to for a very long time, that it is dark and dusty.

In the 3rd scene, bow and arrows, war paint and crocodile-teeth necklaces suggest that they are far away from the modern world and the people are protective and traditional of a native tribe.

Indiana Jones wears a fedora hat, carries a bullwhip has a leather jacket on and a bag. This suggests to the audience that he is from a different background to the people who are with him and is quite a modern man who is well prepared. This iconography is in some ways typical of a hero – being different to the people who surround him and recognisable amongst a crowd, but in other ways not, not having a gun and more protective clothing for the period of time that the film is set in and wearing a leather jacket in the middle of the Amazon jungle adds to his character and makes him more amusing. This is not practical for the location and circumstance, which makes the audience, laugh because it’s so ridiculous.

In the introduction, there are around 200 shots. The audience cannot take their eyes off the screen. All of the fast moving shots take place in the escape from the cave. This is because Spielberg is trying to create a fast-paced crisis that leaves the audience wanting more. There is no fading out of the camera, apart from at the very beginning because this would slow the pace of the film down.

Many of the close-ups come at one time to introduce characters and surroundings. Indy is first introduced as a silhouette to show importance. None of the other characters are introduced as a silhouette to begin with; this shows the audience that it is someone different to all the other characters, a main character that should be remembered. The camera pans across the jungle from left to right when the group are trekking, to give the sense that they are travelling a long way.

In the opening few shots, the lighting plays an important part in setting the scene, creating a misty, dark and dull atmosphere. This style of lighting is appropriate because it sets a spooky, mysterious scene that leads the audience to think that something strange is going so to keep watching. At first, the jungle is very dark but there are a few rays of sunlight shining through the thick trees. The birds can be heard which leads the audience to believe that it is early morning and when you think of early morning, you think that no one else will be around which also adds to the spooky atmosphere. As the group continue, the suns rays are shining brightly on the river and reflecting off but the dense jungle is still very dark.

The faces of the travellers can only be seen vaguely because of the sun but up to this point, the audience have only caught glimpses of Indy’s back or as a silhouette so they do not yet know who the main character (hero) is. Then comes the scene where one of the Peruvians tries to kill Indy. When he runs off into the jungle, Indy comes into full view. Accompanied by dramatic music, this shot really catches the audience’s attention. Indy then pulls out the map, which comes into a spotlight. Because the paper of the map is so thin, the light shines through it creating an orange glow behind the map. Everything else goes very dark so the audience are forced to focus on the map. This proves that the map plays an important part in the film- It symbolises the main artefact and the reason that Indy finds the cave which leads to the idol, proving that it is very important to this part of the film.

When Sapito and Indy enter the cave, everything goes even darker, giving the impression that no one has been in for a very long time and that it is scary and mysterious. As Indy approaches the idol, the surroundings light up considerably showing that the idol is another important feature in this part of the film. As Indy approaches the plane, it becomes very light and looses the patchiness of the sunlight. This is because Spielberg wants the audience to focus on the whole screen rather than the areas covered by the patchy lights. It also gives the sense that they are in a bigger space, which is less spooky so suggesting that Indy will escape the Hovito’s and fly away on the plane. The lighting is then brought to a climax when the plane flies off into the sunset.

All the colours are blended into to one to give a feeling of achievement, that something is complete. The colours include reds, yellows, oranges, gold’s and browns. All these colours are usually associated with a sunset and the end of a film which also puts across that the introduction to this film is very similar in content to the climax of another adventure film, proving that is film is not like any other adventure movie so the audience cannot take their eyes off the screen incase they miss something.

The soundtrack in this film is very fast paced and loud with a lot of crescendos and minor chords to give a spooky feeling. The introduction soundtrack is especially fast paced to again give the sense that this introduction is very similar to the climax of another film. The soundtrack also reflects and compliments the light changes, e.g. when the lighting goes darker, the soundtrack goes louder and more in the minor key so they both help to add to the suspense. When the plane is flying off into the sunset, the music brightens up and goes into a major chord ending with repetition and fading out of a perfect cadence to give a sense of completion. There is little dialogue in the introduction because it is not appropriate. I think that the music expresses what Spielberg is trying to get across better than words because they would just confuse things. Everyone understands what is going on and what is going to happen with the soundtrack, this section of the film is too fast paced for dialogue, it would just seem out of place. When dialogue is heard, it adds to the suspense of the scenario, e.g. when Sapito says “no-one has come out of there alive.” The audience will be sat on the edge of their seats to see if they will make it out. It also adds to Indy’s character, when Sapito says that, Indy just carries on which shows that he is dedicated and brave.

I don’t think that I could choose the most important element that makes this film so successful and catches the audiences’ attention. I think that they all combine to make this film so good. They all compliment each other – the storyline works closely with the camera shots and the editing. The lighting compliments the soundtrack and vice versa. Overall this film is a fast paced, action thriller which grips the audience from start to finish because it’s so jam-packed with action that the audience don’t get chance to blink in case they miss something. The story doesn’t drag out like most films and the exciting storyline completes the package.

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