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Raiders of the Lost Ark – Analysis Part 1
The Long Take

On 02, Jul 2013 | 10 Comments | In Editing, Raiders of the Lost Ark | By vashi

Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) is for me, the quintessential action/adventure film.
It contains 1459 individual shots and has an Average Shot Length of 4.6 seconds.
There are several iconic and unforgettable shots in this cinematic classic.
I would like to focus on one specific shot…the 2nd longest shot in the film.
My film editing tip is revealed at the end of the video.

This long take in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” asks an important question. What drives Indiana Jones? Glory? Power? Integrity? Righteousness? Honor? What makes Indy who he is and is he really that different from Belloq? This quiet dialog exchange carries as much power as the largest explosion.

Steven Spielberg and editor Michael Kahn could have edited this scene many different ways. Clean close-ups of each character cut back and forth. A slow dolly push in to a final close up on Indy. Dirty OTS matching handheld shots…etc.

They chose a static 2-shot with an out-of-focus Indy in full foreground profile. Why? Because it worked. The writing, acting, cinematography, set design, shot composition, sound and wardrobe in this shot were perfect. It’s a magical scene.

Watch the video to see the power of the long take in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.


*UPDATE: FLOORPLAN ANIMATIC with Camera and Dolly movements*

The longest shot in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” runs 94 seconds. It’s a masterclass in camera movement, framing, staging, lighting, set design, wardrobe and ultimately…storytelling through visuals.

Jonathan Ochmann ( kindly shared with me an amazing animatic he created to explicitly show what Spielberg and legendary DP Douglas Slocombe did on the day to capture this shot.

Until next time…

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  1. I agree its a great scene but ” They chose a static 2-shot with an out-of-focus Indy in full foreground profile. Why? Because it worked.” ?

    Kind of light on the analysis.

    • vashi

      The next line after “Because it worked” explains why it worked for me. They nailed ever element. Hope that helps…

  2. Great post! Hands down, my favorite long take ever. We liked it so much that we recreated it for our web series:

    • vashi

      Fucking love it Robbie! I’m a big fan and have seen all the episodes. Great stuff…

  3. A scene from 1:30:02 lasts until 1:31:43 (101 sec).So doesn’t it makes the scene the longest?.Or is there something I’m not understanding right?

    • vashi

      Evizz…you are absolutely correct. I’ve seen Raiders too many time to count and NEVER caught that long scene! Thanks for the heads up and catching my mistake.
      Looks like I have to completely update the post and credit you with catching it! Thanks again and will make the changes as soon as I can.

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