Monday, January 31, 2011

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - Act II: 1 breakdown

More Raiders - the Act I breakdown is here.

ACT TWO: part 1

(33:42) The transition visual of the plane flying over the map again, this time to Cairo.


Opens with beautiful bright sun over the white rooftops of Cairo. Again, Egypt is another mystical power spot, and the desert brings in another element and a huge contrast to the snowy peaks of Nepal.

Indy and Marion are now at the house of Indy’s friend Sallah, who Indy calls “the best digger in Cairo.” The first thing we see is Sallah’s enormous tribe of children, who are giggling over a stray monkey dressed in a little red coat. (another OPPONENT). Marion is taken by the monkey and she and Indy flirt over it. (LOVE PLOT)

Sallah reports to Indy that he has been working at the Tanis site, digging for the Nazis, who, he says, pay pennies – “It is as if the Pharoahs have returned.” There is only one with brains – Belloq. Sallah says the Nazis are already ahead of them, they have found the map room already (TICKING CLOCK) but Indy says they won’t be able to find the Well Of Souls without the medallion, and asks Sallah to find someone to translate it. The scene ends with Sallah giving another warning: “the Ark was not meant to be disturbed. Death has always surrounded it. It is not of this earth.” (SET UP, CLUE and THEME) The casting of Sallah indicates that like Marcus, Sallah is a purely good person, which gives the warning deep import. This time Indy doesn’t argue the point.

36:30 Indy and Marion walk on the bustling streets with the monkey, through street vendors. Great use of location for the coming action sequence, and I also want to note that it’s a great choice of the filmmakers to put this sequence in the city of Cairo first, before moving out into the desert to the dig. Cairo is an exotic and gorgeous location, but it’s still civilization, so the action is moving gradually further out into no-man’s land. It makes the subsequent move out into the desert more dramatic, I think.

The monkey runs off and Indy tells Marion to let it go, offering her a date (PLANT). A man carries a basket on his head behind Marion in this shot (FORESHADOWING). The monkey joins a one-eyed beggar who takes the monkey and reports to the Nazis. The monkey mimics his Nazi salute. (REVEAL – the monkey is a spy.). The Nazis send the beggar to follow Indy and Marion, and we see that dozens of Egyptians are working for the Nazis as well – Indy and Marion have no idea they’re surrounded. (SUSPENSE)

Out on the streets, Marion and Indy banter (LOVE PLOT). Marion asks Indy why he doesn’t have a houseful of kids like Sallah, and says her father had him figured for “the most talented bum he’d ever worked with.” Then the two are set upon by a huge group of Egyptians. A prolonged street fight and chase ensues (SETPIECE). Marion is separated from Indy and dodges pursuers, knocking one out with a frying pan and then hiding in one of the huge straw baskets. The monkey gives her away, alerting her Nazi pursuers, who seize the basket. Meanwhile a huge Egyptian menaces Indy with a scimitar. Instead of fighting, Indy simply shoots him and goes after Marion, but the entire street is filled with men carrying baskets. Indy hears Marion calling to him from one of the baskets and pursues as the Nazis load the basket into a truck. Indy fires on them and kills the driver; the truck overturns and explodes in front of his eyes. (HUGE TWIST)

42:15 A devastated Indy drinks himself into a stupor in a bar, with the monkey comforting him. A Nazi summons Indy inside, where Belloq is waiting to talk to him. Indy wants to kill him but Belloq clearly likes Indy. He says “We have fallen from the purer faith… I am a shadowy reflection of you.” (HERO/ANTAGONIST MIRROR). Belloq confides that he intends to open the Ark and learn its secrets before he turns it over to Hitler. “It’s a transmitter: a radio for talking to God.” (SET UP – ANTAGONIST’S PLAN). Indy says if Belloq wants to talk to God, they can go talk to him together – and draws his gun on Belloq – then the entire bar draws on Indy – but Sallah’s children rescue him by running in and surrounding him, shouting “Uncle Indy!” and leading him out.


46:43 Cut to a shadowy residence – through a carved screen we see a boy preparing a meal. The beggar slips in and poisons a bowl of dates.

Inside the house, an old man pores over the medallion while Sallah talks to Indy. He says the Nazis have a medallion like Indy’s, and they have used it to make calculations in the Map Room – they are digging for the Well Of Souls right now. The old man calls the two over to translate the writing on the medallion: It gives the height of the staff in Khadams (sp?) – but on the other side of the medallion the markings warn that one Khadam must be taken away to honor the Hebrew God. (MORE THEME – and the Nazis are not honoring the Hebrew God). A strange wind blows through the house, moving the wind chimes, as he speaks.

Sallah confirms that the Nazis’ medallion has writing on only one side, which means they’re digging in the wrong place.

Triumphant Indy grabs a date to eat it but Sallah prevents him (SUSPENSE SHOT of the date spinning in the air). He shows Indy the monkey is dead on the carpet, surrounded by poisoned dates. (ANOTHER VILLAIN DISPATCHED, with just desserts.)

49:40 Cut to the dig in the desert – hundreds of men digging in different places.

Belloq is in a heated argument with Nazi Colonel Dietrich (another OPPONENT), who is angry that the calculations seem to be wrong – they have not found the Well yet.

Indy and Sallah walk through the dig in robes (HERO AND VILLAIN IN PROXIMITY). Sallah lowers Indy into the map room and stands guard outside as Indy fits the medallion to the staff and locates the position of the Well Of Souls. Outside the Nazis discover Sallah and order him away; Sallah must surreptitiously abandon the rope, dropping it into the Map Room. (SUSPENSE). Inside, the sun moves across the map room and strikes the crystal, bathing the room in preternatural light. (60 min).

This scene is quiet, and involves only one person, but it’s mystically powerful – note the use of light and the religious quality of the music… and Indy is decked out in robes almost like, well, Moses - staff and all. Indy stands like God over the miniature of the temple city, and the beam of light comes through the crystal like light from heaven. (And just like Indy drew it in the Call To Adventure scene). It’s all a foreshadowing of the final climax, in which God intervenes much in the same way. Very effective, with lots of subliminal manipulation going on. And of course, at the end of the scene, Indy has the information he needs to retrieve the Ark. I would also point out that the midpoint is often some kind of mirror image of the final climax – it’s an interesting device to use, and you may find yourself using it without even being aware of it.


Some people would dispute me on this one (and people argue about the exact Midpoint of movies all the time!).

I will concede that the twist that comes just after it that Marion is still alive is a big emotional beat, and I’m not going to argue anyone who says that that’s the real midpoint, but the Map Room scene is played so much more dramatically and given so much more time, besides everything else I’ve said about it above. The scene capper of Sallah dropping an improvised rope (complete with Nazi flag) in to get Indy out feels like the end of the sequence, and a whole new sequence begins as the men walk out into camp again – a sequence which alternates scenes with Marion trying to escape from captivity while Indy and Sallah and their team dig for the Well of Souls.

But as always, the point is to use sequence breakdowns and analysis however is most useful for your own writing!

- Alex


Sonja Foust said...

At first I definitely WANTED the midpoint to be the scene where Indy finds Marion, but after thinking about it for a while, I still think it's the Map Room. I wanted it to be him finding Marion because I wanted it to be a romance, and it's not. The romance is secondary, and I think since it's secondary, the midpoint HAS to be the Map Room-- that's NOT secondary.

Stephen D. Rogers said...

Hey Alex,

Could RAIDERS have a two-part midpoint? I ask because I have two-part midpoint in my WIP :).

I don't remember the concept as midpoint mirroring the final climax. Will keep in mind when I finally write the ending.


Anonymous said...

Alex frist I want to thank you for all that you are sharing with us. I bought your workbook and love it to. But I am lost on were Midpoint is. Is it all of sequence 5.