by Martina Baron – “So, Mr. Spielberg, your writing is a metaphor for how capitalism tries to crush the citizen?” “But I just wanted to make a movie about cars.” There are dozens of summer stories, but this one is a little different, because it was here in Rome, at the beginning of his amazing journey, and in the summer of 1973 he gave a lecture on his first work: duel (which you can review HERE STREAMING ON CHILI). Apparently, only a movie made for television – in the US it was broadcast on November 13, 1971 – was actually a work that would have shocked everyone. At the time, Spielberg was just a big boy of 25 and until then only moved on thanks to his imagination and found himself in Europe for the first time. But this movie dedicated to America was for the small screen, and it met the refined tastes of European cinema lovers.
Duel was born out of a story by Richard Matheson and was a business devoted primarily to satellite television, with no possibility of it ending up in the hall. Instead, the director’s strength, his love of cinema and the consequent knowledge and innate ability to build a discussion theatre, made the passage of the film inescapable from living room vision to the sensual pleasure of cinema. A real show that passed in Italy first through Taormina and then in several cinemas and which instantly determined the future fate of its creator, a crystal talent in knowing how to reconcile storytelling, direction and emotion.
Like a postcard of what would later become cinematic, Duel—on TV in 1971, in cinemas in 1973 after Federico Fellini’s blessing in a Roman vision—already contained the main elements of an entire movie. In a mouse hunt in which hero David Mann’s Plymouth Valiant desperately tries to escape the wrath of a mysterious and uncontrollable tanker, Spielberg uses reflexes, plays with speed and perspective, and nurtures fear of vulnerability by bringing him back to the rules of the road. .
Thus, there is a guiding intuition that underpins even accurate shots in the race to save Dennis Weaver’s character, with two simple vehicles, living in constant, tangible suspense. Entertainment filled with composition made of a direction capable of communication, not overshadowed or canceled by history. Until then, Spielberg had been hunting audiences to make sure they loved cinema, like him, and were willing to immerse themselves completely in creating worlds and icons, whether they were an alien, a dinosaur, or the President of the United States. Or even a shark. But that’s another story…
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