restricted access 10. Raiders of the Lost Ark Analysis: The Return of Max Steiner
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161 10 Raid­ ers of the Lost Ark Anal­ y­ sis The Re­ turn of Max ­ Steiner Open­ ing: A South ­ American Jun­ gle Like all the chap­ ters of the se­ ries, the film opens with the Par­ a­ mount logo, a moun­ tain, which dis­ solves onto a vis­ u­ ally sim­ i­ lar form.1 In this case, the Par­ a­ mount moun­ tain be­ comes a real moun­ tain, the pro­ file of which is then ­ blocked off by the en­ trance of a char­ ac­ ter don­ ning a fe­ dora hat and com­ ing into the frame fac­ ing away from the cam­ era. We find out later that the man with the hat is the pro­ tag­ o­ nist. At the mo­ ment, we can only rec­ og­ nize in him the typ­ i­ cal “ex­ plorer type.” View­ ers in 1981 were fa­ mil­ iar nei­ ther with In­ di­ ana Jones nor with Har­ ri­ son Ford, who at that time was not as well known as he is today. The man is lead­ ing an ex­ pe­ di­ tion in the jun­ gle; with a super­ im­ posed title, the nar­ ra­ tion in­ forms us that we are in “South Amer­ ica, 1936.” We know the time, the place, and we are al­ ready in the midst of an ad­ ven­ ture. This open­ ing is strik­ ing for one ele­ ment that dif­ fer­ en­ tiates it from clas­ si­ cal films and from the other two neo­ clas­ si­ cal mod­ els, Star Wars and Super­ man. In the clas­ si­ cal pe­ riod, the open­ ing title se­ quence was a fixed pres­ ence and had some re­ cur­ ring fea­ tures.2 The names of the cast and crew were shown on a 162 • Raiders of the Lost Ark Analysis back­ ground and with graph­ ics that an­ tic­ i­ pated some nar­ ra­ tive ­ themes or vis­ ual mo­ tifs of the film—like the ­ falcon’s image in The Mal­ tese Fal­ con ( John Hu­ ston, 1941). More­ over, there used to be a lit­ tle mu­ si­ cal over­ ture pre­ sent­ ing the main mu­ si­ cal ­ themes of the score: stick­ ing to our Mal­ tese Fal­ con ex­ am­ ple, the open­ ing ti­ tles are ac­ com­ pa­ nied by ­ Adolph ­ Deutsch’s mys­ ter­ i­ ous and men­ ac­ ing music. Neo­ clas­ si­ cal films like Star Wars and Super­ man begin with a mem­ or­ able ­ extradiegetic title se­ quence that ­ serves as a frame to the film nar­ ra­ tive. Super­ man even has a meta­ lin­ gu­ is­ tic pro­ logue that bares its ­ comic-book or­ i­ gin. Star Wars does not have clas­ si­ cal open­ ing ti­ tles—cast, crew, and so on—but has an open­ ing se­ quence any­ way, tell­ ing the back­ story ­ through crawl­ ing ti­ tles of a strik­ ing vis­ ual im­ pact. Even Jaws, which is the least ­ overtly neo­ clas­ si­ cal of these three films, has a mem­ or­ able open­ ing title se­ quence. In all these cases, the music ­ brings the­ viewer into the film, start­ ing its over­ all ­ macro-emotive func­ tion of uni­ fy­ ing the nar­ ra­ tive. Oddly ­ enough, a neo­ clas­ si­ cal film like Raid­ ers has no ex­ trad­ ie­ getic open­ ing title se­ quence and no mu­ si­ cal over­ ture. ­ George Lucas ex­ plained: “The idea was that in­ stead of start­ ing off the film slow, we would start off fast. The whole thing in se­ ri­ als is that they al­ ways re­ capped what hap­ pened be­ fore. I­ didn’t wanna make it that much of a se­ rial. So I said, ‘The fun part is if we take the last epi­ sode or last film, and start at the cli­ max.’ You take that—the best part of a movie you ­ haven’t seen—then stop, then you start a new movie 15 to 20 min­ utes in. It was kind of an out­ ra­ geous idea at the time.”3 Fol­ low­ ing the aes­ thet­ ics of se­ ri­ als, Raid­ ers was not de­ signed as a sin­ gle,­ stand-alone film but as a por­ tion of a ­ larger se­ ries of ad­ ven­ tures, not only open...


Subject Headings

  • Williams, John, 1932- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Motion picture music -- History and criticism.
  • Jaws (Motion picture).
  • Star wars (Motion picture).
  • Raiders of the lost ark (Motion picture).
  • Boston Pops Orchestra.
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