Steven Soderbergh strips 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' of color and sound

See Indiana Jones in a whole new light with director Steven Soderbergh's beautifully stripped-down version of the famous film.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

"Raiders" still
Soderbergh removed the color from the Spielberg classic. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Director Steven Soderbergh is known for tackling a pretty wide variety of filmmaking projects. He directed the 1990s indie film "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," the breezy all-star heist film "Ocean's Eleven" and the sci-fi production "Solaris." He seems to possess a mind that never stops exploring both the artistic and technical sides of film. He recently turned his attention to an action classic, Steven Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Soderbergh took the 1981 movie and stripped it of its dialogue, soundtrack and color. He posted the result on his experimental online marketplace, Extension 765. He begins his musing on the film by talking about staging, the way the elements of a scene are arranged. He writes, "I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount."

The stripped-down "Raiders" invites viewers to concentrate on Spielberg's staging, rather than Harrison Ford's dialogue or the dramatic action music. Soderbergh replaced the original score with an unusual electronica soundtrack meant to "aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect." Some viewers may find the new score a little off-putting, but you can always mute the thing and look purely at the visuals.

There's no doubt this is an extremely different way to experience the Indiana Jones film. You start to really notice the movement of shadows, the arrangement of props and the placement of actors within the frame. It's fascinating and easy to get pulled in. Soderbergh is onto something. As it turns out, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is a pretty fantastic black-and-white silent movie.