Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Sydney Opera House (29.07.16)

This review should probably be premised with the fact that I am a huge fan of the Indiana Jones series (the first three – don’t even get me started on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). These films formed an intrinsic part of my childhood and are potentially where my love of history steamed from. So it was with much child-like excitement that I arrived at the concert hall at the Sydney Opera House to see Raiders of the Lost Ark with the score played live by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Conductor Nicholas Buc introduces the film and the rich orchestral score by John Williams. The audience is encouraged to cheer the good guys, hiss at the bad guys and generally just enjoy the film, in whatever form that takes. At first it is difficult not to watch the orchestra but before long the magic of the film takes over and you almost forget the music is being performed in front of you. Such is the power of John Williams.

With a career spanning five decades, Williams has worked on more than one hundred films and his forty year artistic partnership with director Steven Spielberg resulted in some of the most well-known scores of all time, such as Schindler’s List, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Jurassic Park, among others. He has received five Academy Awards and fifty Oscar nominations, making him the Academy’s most nominated living person and the second most nominated person in the history of the Oscars. The music he produces is reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood, where it serves to enhance the plot. The score contains musical gestures – referred to as ‘Mickey Mousing’ in connection to its most common use in cartoons where every biff or poke had a sound attached to it. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, this can be seen when the Nazi Toht comes toward Marion with a hot poker.

The most iconic piece of music, generally played during scenes where Indiana Jones is escaping from something, received a resounding cheer from the crowd. Marion also has her own piece of music which is played to signify romantic overtures or thoughts from the protagonists. While Williams composes his scores in service of the film, these beautiful and powerful pieces of music stand alone as music.

More than simply a film, Raiders of the Lost Ark with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is an experience – one that stays with you long after the music stops.