How The Tomb Raider Video Game Inspired An Experimental Gus Van Sant Film – SlashFilm


The first “Tomb Raider” game was released in 1996, and it immediately caused a minor media stir for the design of its main character, Lara Croft. Lara wore short shorts and was animated to have an ample bosom and big pouty lips with inhuman proportions. While video games had been sexualized for many years (don’t look up the 1982 Atari game “Custer’s Revenge” at work), the lascivious treatment of Lara Croft caused a few monocles to pop. 

In 2001, a “Tomb Raider” movie was released, starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. The movie left Gus Van Sant feeling thoughtful. He played the “Tomb Raider” games and was upset to learn that director Simon West was going to shoot the film adaptation like, well, a film. Van Sant was used to the video game visuals of keeping Lara in the center of the screen with the camera always facing the back of her head. As she ran and turned, the background would swivel around her. Van Sant felt that a “Tomb Raider” film should employ a similar tactic. He then took that idea and suggested it to Harris Savides (his director of photography on “Gerry”):

“(W)hen I heard they were doing ‘Tomb Raider,’ I was kind of interested in it, but I also knew that they were thinking in terms of an action movie, and the game’s not like that. I mean, there are action moments, but there’s lots of other stuff going on — swimming, walking, climbing through great expanses. One of the cool things about it is the sound, but also the camera. I showed the game to Harris before we shot.”

One can see the language of video games at play in “Gerry.”

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