Sunday, January 10, 2016

Don't Make a Scene: Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Story: In his early days directing, Steven Spielberg was just as unafraid of cribbing from other movies and their directors as any other film-maker. His apprenticeship was the films he'd watched obsessively as a kid, and given the chance he used the techniques he'd learned in "school," replicating them as if by rote ("Hitchcock did THIS to convey THIS." "I'd like THIS to look like The Guns of Navarone).

But there's a big difference, and many years, between a guy who makes movies and a film-maker, and despite the success Spielberg had making movies, he still managed to become a film-maker with his own voice, his own techniques, his own approach. Somewhere between E.T. and Schindler's List, Spielberg became his own man.

But, not Raiders of the Lost Ark. Nor, frankly, should it have been. George Lucas and Spielberg's ode to the D-movie serials of the 30's and 40's had the film-grained fingerprints of past movies all over it, with scenes from Hawks, Ford, Lewton, DeMille, Tourneur, Lang, Wellman, Wyler, Lean, Mann, Dmytryk, Sturges (and even...Jerry Hopper?) all tossed like a buffet salad into one two hour film. But for the dressing, the over-all look of the film he turned to one journeyman director who worked all genres and filled his film-frames with as much detail as he possibly could: Michael Curtiz.

Things happen in corners in Raiders, shadows fill spaces, archways guide the eye, animals skitter through the frame, crowds mill and throng in the background, until they get in the way.

And when you lose your girl and the only solace is in a bottle, of all the movies in all the cinemas in all the world, there's just one that communicates that sorrow, and Spielberg accommodates by starting with a slow push-in and lateraling the camera so it locks into that particular angle like it was following some Jungian movie version of sense-memory. A tip o' the fur felt Pilot with elliptically cut brim to another bar across the continent.

The script is by Lawrence Kasdan, but as you can see, there were a lot of changes. Indy's speech is cruder, more direct. He and Belloq actually switch dialogues at one point. A whole section of Belloq complaining about local wine is replaced with a speech about Archaeology being both men's "religion." A speech about the film's prologue in South America is dispensed with entirely, probably as "ancient history." It goes to show that with a Spielberg film, the script isn't done until the film's in the can.

The Set-Up: Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) has been sought out by the government to try to beat Hitler to a religious legend—the fabled Ark of the Covenant, said to contain the original stone tablets onto which God wrote the Ten Commandments, and which has been used in the past by Hebrew warriors to smite their enemies. The acquisition of the Ark could determine who wins the Second World War. Indy's search leads him back to an old girlfriend, Marion (Karen Allen), whose father was said to have possession of the head-piece of the staff of Ra, which, if used properly, would determine the location of the Ark. In Egypt to begin the search, Indy hooks up with his digger-friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), to find the Ark while simultaneously fending off Nazi's, archaeological rivals and the Arabs in their employ, and having to break a few Commandments to do so.

But it comes at a cost.

Marion has just been killed in the melee.


NOTE: Script deletions are in RED. Script additions are in YELLOW.


A dark, smoke-filled den of iniquity. The patrons, almost all fearsome Arabs, sit in small shadowy groups around the room. Indy stands at the bar finishing off a fifth of bourbon. He is drunk. At the table, the stray monkey that has accompanied Indy and Marion on their search.
The ARAB BARTENDER places a new bottle of expensive bourbon in front of him. Indy eyes it queerly.

ARAB BARTENDER The gentleman in the corner sent it. He would like you to join him.
INDY (doesn't even look) Too bad. I'm drinking alone.
The Arab Bartender does a take, looking at the three, tough GERMAN HENCHMEN who have surrounded Indy from out of the smoke, their hands stuffed in bulging trenchcoat pockets.

FIRST GERMAN: Dr. Jones. Der mann in der bar wünsche mit dir sprechen. Kommen zie, bitte, mit uns.
Indy notices them now with a bleary glance.
He decides he's in no shape to kill or be killed and moves with them across the room, taking his bottle with him. The Arab patrons take this in and mind their own business.
INDY: You lookin' for me?
The Arab laughs and moves away, leaving Indy a bit confused...
The occupant of the smoke-shrouded corner table becomes visible only as Indy reaches there: it is Emile Belloq. He is drinking wine.

INDY: Belloq.
BELLOQ: Good evening, Dr. Jones.
INDY: I ought to kill you right now.
BELLOQ: It was not I who brought the girl into this dirty business. Indy knows its true; that's what's tearing him up.
INDY: BELLOQ: Not a very private place for a murder.
INDY (looking around): Well, these Arabs don't care if we kill each other...
INDY: They're not going to interfere in our business.
It was not I who brought the girl into this business.

Sit down, please, before you fall down. We can behave as civilized people. I'm afraid it will be your last opportunity.

Indy sits, glancing at the German Henchmen, who settle nearby, just out of earshot. The monkey runs off to his German masters, and a pistol is exchanged in the foreground.
I see that your taste in friends remains consistent.

BELLOQ (looking around): These Arabs will not interfere in the white man's business. They do not care if we kill each other off. (takes a sip of wine, refers to it) Terribly difficult finding a decent vintage here. You were quite vigorous in Shanghai. Unfortunately, our friend the Wild Boar had taken the precaution of making several copies of the piece.
Indy registers this as he takes a drink. Belloq watches
him with disdainful amusement.

BELLOQ: How odd that is should end this way for us...
BELLOQ: ...after so many...stimulating encounters.
BELLOQ: I almost regret it. Where shall I find a new adversary so close to my own level?
INDY: Try the local sewer.
BELLOQ: I know you despise me. We always hate in others that which we most fear in ourselves. You and I are very much alike. We have always done the same kind of work. Archaeology is our religion. Yet we have both fallen from the purer faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am a shadowy reflection of you. But (I)t would take only a nudge to make you like me, to push you out of the light.
INDY: Now you're getting nasty.
BELLOQ: You know it to be true! How nice. And how ironic the timing.
BELLOQ: Look at this. It's worthless. Ten dollars from a vendor in the street. But I take it and bury it in the sand for a thousand years, it becomes the Ark. Men will kill for it.
BELLOQ: Men like you and me.

There's a certain amount of truth to this; the recognition of it flickers across Indy's bleary eyes. Belloq sees it there.
INDY: What about your boss, Der Fuhrer? I thought he was waiting to take possession.

Belloq glances into the gloom at the German Henchmen.
BELLOQ (quieter): When the time is right. When I am finished with it.
INDY: I hope your friends are patient. Dangerous work, Belloq.
Yes. Very. You may consider yourself fortunate that your involvement concludes here.
INDY: Tell me, did you get away with the idol?
BELLOQ (negative): I was lucky to get away with my life. The Hovitos proved quite narrow-minded about the whole matter.

Belloq leans forward, eyes shining, voice suddenly different.
BELLOQ: Jones, do you realize what the Ark is? (very intense) It's a transmitter. A radio for talking to God! And now it is within my grasp.
Indy takes a drink.
INDY: You wanna talk to God? Let's go see him together. I've got nothing better to do.
INDY: You know, if it's God you want to talk to, maybe I can arrange it.
BELLOQ (smiles): You have not changed. But, please, do not reach for your weapon until you are ready to die.

The front door of the bar slams open and all nine of SALLAH'S CHILDREN scamper in and over to a surprised Indy. Two of the smallest hop into his lap.

LITTLE SON: Uncle Indy, we have been looking for you.
LITTLE DAUGHTER: Come home now, Uncle. Hurry!
Suddenly the Arab patrons of the bar take an intense interest in the situation, shifting their weapons.
INDY: Yes. Yes, I'll come now.
Indy stands up. The German Henchmen are poised. Belloq eyes the Arab patrons and signals for the Henchmen to relax.
BELLOQ: Next time, Indiana Jones, it will take more than children to save you.

The children usher Indy out.
Raiders of the Lost Ark

Words by Lawrence Kasdan

Pictures by Douglas Slocombe and Steven Spielberg

Raiders of the Lost Ark is available on DVD from Paramount Home Video.

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