There’s probably nothing I can say about “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that hasn’t already been said. The film is a classic, arguable the finest example in Hollywood popcorn movie filmmaking. It’s fun, fast-paced and stars one of the greatest movie stars of all time in his most iconic role. Simply put, “Raiders” is the cinematic equivalent of pure thrills and fun.
It doesn’t get better than that. Or does it?
That question was definitively answered when the Utah Symphony dropped in on the Portneuf Amphitheater for last Saturday night to perform “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in concert. The featured a performance of the “Raiders” musical score in real time while the film played. And having a group of musicians playing much-beloved music while this much-beloved movie plays in the background was a cinematic and musical experience unlike any other.
The experience really started in the run-up to the show, as the musicians warmed and the audience settled into their seats. Tiny bits and pieces of John Williams’ majestic music rose from different sections of the orchestra. It just amped you up for the coming performance. It was a bit like walking into your kitchen while cookies are baking. The smell just takes possession of you, and you can’t wait to take that first bite.
Then, the show started.
The performance featured a screening of “Raiders”, with the musical score stripped away from the film, but with the dialogue and sound effects still in place. The orchestra played all the musical cues in real time as the film unspooled. It was going to see a classic silent film with a musician playing the accompaniment on an organ. Only on a much bigger scale.
Now, there’s nothing to say about “Raiders” as a film that hasn’t been said before. It’s a perfect storm of action, humor, wit and fun, all whipped together into a frothy, face-paced cocktail of pure entertainment bliss. Harrison Ford is perfect as archaeologist Indiana Jones, a hero who’s often not up to the standard of the conventional action movie hero, but who we love for his dogged determination and his ability to overcome. This movie is beloved nearly forty years after its original release and new generations are discovering it all the time.
Seeing “Raiders” with a live musical score is an even more fantastic!
With an orchestra sitting in front of you, the music takes on an organic quality and you feel it even more. You can feel the rumble of the percussion in a way that’s far more affecting than just hearing it in a movie theater. The air almost vibrates with energy from the brass instruments. Breezes of strings swirls like a playful wind.
The soundtrack of the movie seemed a little quieter than it would be in a normal music mix, which put the music front and center. This was especially noticeable in scenes with a lot of gunfire. This allowed listeners to pick out little details in the arrangements that aren’t as noticeable when watching a normal screening of the film. Little grace notes from chimes or counter melodies under the main melodies.
Watching the musicians playing made the music like a living, breathing entity. It was amazing to see different sections of the orchestra spring to life when they began playing after waiting for their cues to come up.
Best of all, was the climactic scene where the Ark was finally opened. As the music billowed and swirled in a menacing buildup to the big reveal of the Ark’s power, the wind picked up, as is the ghosts were coming off the screen and rocketed around the audience. It was chill-inducing and added the perfect touch of the supernatural.
What a great performance! If you were there, count yourself lucky. “Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert” took the best parts of a classic film screen and an epic musical performance, creating an experience that truly moves you. Thank you to the Utah Symphony for such a great show, and let’s hope east Idaho gets more of these kind of performances soon!
Myles Primm, EastIdahoNews.com
Idaho State Journal staff
Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com