Why on Earth did Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Traffic director Steven Soderbergh decide to turn the colorful pulp of Raiders of the Lost Ark into a silent black-and-white film? Because it turns out Raiders is still remarkably compelling stripped down and has a lot to teach us about filmmaking.

Soderbergh has his (sadly non-embeddable) two-hour recut of Raiders of the Lost Ark up on his website, where he explains why he created this black-and-white, dialogue-free version of the film. Looking at the film this way allows the viewer to really focus on the staging of the film:

So 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. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I've removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I'm not saying I'm like, ALLOWED to do this, I'm just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that's high level visual math shit).

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It's an interesting study not just for filmmakers, but for any artist who works with staging and framing. He also explains that Raiders of the Lost Ark looks particularly spectacular in black-and-white because cinematographer Douglas Slocombe uses "stark, high-contrast lighting" that works in color or in monochrome.

Raiders [Extension 765]