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Help Support Features Articles Hitchcock's Influences: Part 2
Hitchcock's Influences on Spielberg:
Raiders of the Lost Ark as example
by Arnaud Palisson - posted on September 4, 2006

Part II: Technical Evocations

The Scene-Length Shot

Alfred Hitchcock had experimented the ultimate sequence-length shot with Rope, an entire movie in (almost) just one shot.

A scene from

Nevertheless, he was very critical about his own use of this technique. Talking to François Truffaut about Rope, he said : "I realize that was completely stupid because I broke with all my traditions and I disavowed my theories about parceling out movies and the possibilities of editing in order to tell visually a story. (…) Films must be edited. Rope is an unforgivable experience."
But Hitchcock didn't disavowed the scene-length shot. Among others, in
Notorious (1946), a dolly shot crosses a hall room to finally show the hand of Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), hiding the key of the cellar. This scene is in fact the carbon copy of a long dolly shot at the end of Young and Innocent (1937), where the camera crosses the ballroom and stops on the winking eyes of the drummer of the band, identifying him as the murderer.

The long dolly shot at the end of Young and Innocent.

This technique has been greatly reused by Spielberg. In his movies, the scene-length shot never lasts more than a minute and reinforces the impact of the scene. In Raiders, let's remember when Marcus comes to Indy's house. He announces him the American government decided to entrust Dr Jones for recovering the Ark. The whole scene is filmed in one shot, with no editing cut. Except a brief close-up on the gun, dramatically unjustified but inserted for pragmatic reasons

The particular Raiders scene filmed in only one shot.

Just like Hitchcock, Spielberg makes the camera cross a whole room and finish by focusing on the most important detail of the scene.

The Sound Transition

In the Well of the Souls, Indy and Sallah open the stone chest protecting the Ark. They lift the top part and let it fall on the ground. In a wink, we are back to Belloq's tent. In fact, Spielberg introduces a double transition between the scenes:

  • a visual one : the storm lightning increases briefly the luminous intensity in the Well of Souls. And the bright light decreases once we are back in Belloq's tent
  • a sound one : the sound of the heavy stone rolling on the steps is replaced by the similar sound of thunder over Belloq's tent.
<-- Sound of
Rolling Stone
Sound of Rolling
Thunder -->

The sound transition is a directing technique created by Hitchcock for his last silent movie! The film, Blackmail (again!), was released as a silent movie in 1929. But Hitchcock, feeling that he was at the turning point of talking cinema, shot the film as a talking one. There was no microphone recording but the actors were filmed saying the whole dialogue. A few months later, when the talking cinema techniques became perfected, Hitchcock modified the editing and directed the sound synchronization of Blackmail, which then was released as the first british talking film.

In Blackmail, the yell of a woman is replaced by the yell of another one. But the sound transition as a work of art appears in another Hitchcock movie : The 39 Steps (1935) : a woman enters an apartment and discovers a corpse. She then yells and the shouting is replaced by the sound (and the image) of a whistling steam train.

Sound transition in Hitchcock's The 39 Steps.

Spielberg will quote explicitly this very scene in a similar transition (from a yelling woman to a train) between the first and second sequences of
The Lost World - Jurassic Park: on an exotic beach of Isla Sorna, seeing her daughter attacked by numerous small dinosaurs, a mother yells. CUT. The sound continues as we now see Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the mouth wide opened. Actually, he yawns, on a subway platform. And the strident sound comes from the wheels of a train grating the rails as it enters the station. Let's notice, in the background, the commercial poster with a palm tree, a discreet (but efficient) complementary visual transition.

The sound transition in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Part III: Dramatic Evocations >>


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