Monday, 27 April 2015

Steven Spielberg's Duel (1971)

 Figure 1. Duel Poster

Made in 1971 Steven Spielberg’s Duel was originally made for TV. The film was later shown in cinemas due to its success. Milne says that Duel was “made for TV but booking its own place on the big screen” (Milne, 2006). It’s clear that Milne thinks the film is of cinema quality which is impressive due to it being Spielberg’s first film and also a film with a low budget.

Figure 2. Cars Still 

The plot of the film is extremely simple. David Mann, a salesman, is followed by a driver in a large truck who appears to be trying kill him. It can be argued however that the story is much deeper and actually this is a contest of masculinity. Maslin picks up on this in his review “Mann himself is shown to be a henpecked husband who regains his masculinity only through the contest on the road.” (Maslin, 1983). Maslin is saying that Mann’s Masculinity is questioned by his wife and Mann feels as if he needs to prove himself masculine hence why this contest is fought on the road. We can tell that Mann’s masculinity is being undermined in the scene in which Mann phones his wife. What’s interesting about this scene is we view the conversation with his wife through the window of a washing machine an appliance often associated with women. The washing machine door could suggest that Mann feels emasculated by his wife. The cars in the film could also be symbols of the drivers masculinity. As shown in figure 2 Manns car is smaller, cleaner and less masculine looking in comparison to the large, gritty truck which is shadowing him on the road.

Figure 3. Close up

Though Duel is simple it is thrilling to watch. Gore talks about this in his article “The film is terrifying because, as Weaver is attempting to get folks in the desert to believe that he is being terrorized by a mysterious truck driver, he finds no support.” (Gore, 2008).  Gore here is mentioning that the fear found in this film is relatable. As we are watching we fear more and more for Mann’s life as his lack of support grows. This connection with the character is cleverly achieved through the way in which the camera is used, as shown in figure 3 we are shown close ups of Mann and this helps the audience to feel emotion towards Mann.

Duel is a film which shows that big budgets aren't needed to create a thrilling film.

Gore, L (2008) (accessed 27/04/15)
Milne, T (2006) (accessed 27/04/15)

Illustration List
Spielberg, S (1971) Figure 1. Duel Poster (accessed 27/04/15)
Spielberg, S (1971) Figure 2. Cars Still (accessed 27/04/15)


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