An obvious characteristic
of Steven Spielberg's cinema can be found in his
recurrent evocations of his favorite classical
directors. Cecil B. De Mille, Howard Hawks, John
Ford, Victor Fleming, David Lean,... But the most
significant allusions concern by far Alfred Hitchcock.
Not only does Spielberg quote Hitchcock more often
than any other director, but he does so by three
different kinds of references.
- Formal Influences
such evocations in one film: Raiders
of the Lost Ark.
Part I: Formal Influences
The Rolling Boulder
The first and best known
influence of Hitchcock movies on Raiders
of the Lost Ark lies
in the rolling boulder, chasing Indy in the gallery
of the Peruvian temple,...
Scene from Raiders
of the Lost Ark.
...with reference to a scene
of North by Northwest
: alone among the corn fields, Roger Thornhill
(Cary Grant) is chased and shot by a plane.
Scene from North
In fact, there's no plane
chasing Indy in the gallery (there will be one
in a tunnel of Last
Crusade!), but the editorial
script is very similar. Furthermore, a few years
later, the influence becomes obvious, in the first
scene of Spielberg's Always
Opening scene of Always.
The "Casquette Game"
The same Hitchcock movie is
quoted again in Raiders
during the "Basket Game". In the streets
of Cairo, Indy is running after Marion, supposedly
trapped in a big basket, carried away by two Arabs.
When he arrives on a crowded square, Indy discovers
plenty of such Arab-carried baskets. Not knowing
which one holds Marion captive, Indy overturns
in vain every single basket.
by Northwest, arriving
in Chicago Railroad Station, where he is awaited
by the police, Roger Thornhill steals (in fact,
buys) the uniform of a luggage porter. Carrying
Eve Kendall's suitcases, he escapes the policemen's
notice. When the detectives become aware of the
subterfuge, they begin to look for Thornhill as
a luggage porter, wearing a
red cap. Arriving in the main hall of the station,
they discover numerous red caps. Not knowing which
one is Thornhill's, they check unsuccessfully
every luggage porter.
The Blackmail Bond
The Well of the Souls sequence
takes place in the same time that Marion's attempt
to escape from Belloq's tent. Despite that the
events in the original script are completely distinct,
Spielberg rewrites the scenes and weaves several
subtle bonds between them. Among others, let's
note that both simultaneous actions refer in parallel
to the same Hitchcock movie, Blackmail
One scene of this british
movie takes place in the workshop of a painter
who attracts his potential conquests by asking
them to pose for him. When he does so with Alice
White (Anny Ondra), he gives her a white dress
and asks her to put it on. As she undresses behind
a folding screen, the man tries to look at the
girl through a slit.
to scene in Raiders.
When she's back, the man
tries to make her drunk in order to seduce her.
But she repulses him and decides to leave. She
goes back to the folding screen, get rid of the
dress but the man takes her clothes. As she tries
to get them back, he pulls her against him and
tries to kiss her. She defends herself and a rumble
begins. She fortunately gets a knife on a table
and stabs the man to death.
Later in the movie, a guy
who knows that the girl killed the painter tries
to blackmail her. But he finally happens to be
considered by the police as the killer. Becoming
briefly a typical Hitchcock hero (the
wrongly accused guy), and about to be arrested,
he seeks refuge in the
British Museum. Surrounded by policemen on a platform
at the upper level of the Egyptian gallery, he
escapes down to the ground thanks to a chain hanging
from the ceiling. During his descent, he passes
in front of a huge egyptian statue.
Fire and Gasoline
Let's finish with one of
the most interesting part of Spielberg's art of
directing : his ability to shoot very complex
scenes that seem extremely clear and simple on
the screen. Where numerous classical (and modern!)
directors show one action in one scene, Spielberg
manages magnificently to tell several stories
at a time.
In the Flying wing scene,
Spielberg depicts 4 different events PLUS a reference
to a classical Hitchcock movie. And the scene
remains perfectly clear and breath-taking!
- Indy rumbles with the German
- Marion is trapped in the flying
- The reinforcements arrive
- The kerosene is spread under
the flying wing and runs towards the fire.
The fourth event refers to
the explosion of the Bodega Bay gas station, in
Alfred Hitchcock's The
Birds. Unless this Raiders
scene is much more complex, the editorial script
shows considerable similarities with this 1963
||Raiders of the Lost Ark
Catch a thief, if you can
At last, let's point out
another parallel (mentionned to me by Rasmus Borowski,
filmmaker from Hamburg).
Hidden in the german submarine base, Jones is
trying to dress with the uniform of a soldier
he just knocked out, when the legs of an officer
appears in the foreground.
Catch A Thief
This shot is a carbon copy
of a picture taken from To
Catch A Thief (1955),
on the beach in front of the Carlton hotel in
Cannes (French Riviera).
II: Technical Evocations >>