Jurassic Park

Still from (1993) by Steven Spielberg
© Universal 2005 (DVD

Jurassic Park is a product of the new digital technologies. On the soundtrack, the film launches the new Digital Theater Sound (DTS) format, which contains the acoustic information on a CD; the dinosaurs mark a milestone in digital computer animation.

The duration of the exposition sequence in this film is defined by the sound continuum, which begins before the action and includes the Universal Studios opening credits as well as the title. Crickets and isolated birdcalls establish the jungle as the setting. Spielberg thus falls back on the deep-seated significance of a stereotypical vocabulary of orientation sounds.

However, the visual realization denies any explicit orientation to the very end. In the first place, there is no classic establishing shot that would allow an overview of the spatial situation. Thanks to the only vague semantic content of this sequence, which is reinforced by the sustained nebulous character of the sound objects and their either invisible or non-identifiable origins, the viewer is held in suspense. The cut frequency accelerates as the action progresses. At the same time, the image details become so fragmented that hardly anything is recognizable. The details do not become visible until the film switches to frame mode and one realizes that there is nothing more to see than a hand that disappears, an angrily glinting eye, and an enormous mouth shouting an order. A continuous heightening can be observed in the development of the musical dynamics, which strikingly mirrors the buildup of suspense.

There is a similar vectorization toward a climax at the pictorial level. In particular in this diversely coded striving toward a single, shared vanishing point – the foreseeable catastrophe – there is a distinct connective element that counterbalances the atomized fragmentation of the sound and image material. The anxiety-provoking myth of the incomprehensibly uncanny is sustained to the last – one sees nothing more than the eye of a caged animal until the very end. This form of sound-image interaction is a wonderful illustration of the concept of added value. The visual and acoustic representations of the captive animal are at a suspense-filled distance to one another. They nevertheless satisfy the requirements of the boundary conditions, which one can describe as the connection of a creature’s gaze to the sounds it makes by virtue of the fact that the two share the quality of liveness.

The strategy of veiling instead of showing, of implying instead of articulating, relies on a solid foundation: the viewer’s anticipation. The scene therefore serves the primary purpose of feeding the autonomic nervous system with exalted stimulus information, of attending upon anticipation, and of fomenting emotions in order to bridge the famine of the complex exposition. Thus, the scene belongs to the tradition of the prologue, which is used in numerous films, in particular Spielberg’s.