DUEL

Duel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Director: Steven Spielberg. Cast: Dennis WeaverJacqueline ScottEddie Firestone

Surprisingly I think I had only seen this film in its entirety once, a long time ago (I know… shame on me!) and I could hardly many of the set-pieces. Given my never-ending reverence and love for Steven Spielberg, I thought it was time to revisit his first feature (Though it had directed other stuff for TV before). Even then, in 1971, at the young age of 24, he showed an understanding of the medium and a mastery at building scenes and tension which was truly unique and quite astonishing. He was so confident about the power of his visuals that he actually cut 50% of the dialogue from the script while making the film (he said he would have cut more if the studio had allowed him to).The original story by Richard Matheson had appeared on Playboy (of all places): “It was one of the few times I ever picked up Playboy without looking at the pictures” Spielberg would later say.He took the simplest streamlined premise (a truck stalking a driver), and turned it into a nail-biting murderous game of cat and mouse, using every trick in the film-maker guide book to maximum effect: great vistas, tight close-up, handheld camera, crane shots, tracking shots, low angles, high angles, 360 degree pans and so on. In fact there are hardly 2 shots alike in this film, which is surprising given its plot.Spielberg’s technical virtuosity goes beyond just the placing of the camera. The sharp editing, the inventive use of sound, the music so reminiscent of Bernard Hermann (not the only Hitchcockian influence in this film) but also so experimental. All of these elements converge to make even the most boring and uncharismatic man on the planet (in this case Dennis Weaver) seem exciting. That’s not to say that Dennis Weaver is miscast, actually quite the opposite, his descent to madness is very believable.As a film geek, I love seeing some of Spielberg’strademarks already visible here: the unseen murderous truck driver, just like the unseen shark in Jaws, a man from a broken family, like in Close Encounter, the big close-ups of the hero’s eyes, later seeing in “Raiders”… and even extras which he would later use again and so on, all the way to more recent films like Munich.This may not be the most compelling story ever told, but the way it’s told is second to none… and at that point one of cinema’s greatest was “born”.

The Blu-ray I watched the on contains some pretty juicy interviews and documentaries too, all which made the experience of watching this even more exciting.

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