Yeah, yeah, I know - another psychobabble analysis of Duel!
porterhouse13 May 2004
Sorry, don't have time or inclination to read all 121 other comments on 'Duel' - wish I had, but there you are. Therefore I apologise if I'm saying what has been said before. However, in looking through the first couple of pages of comments on this movie (the only movie I ever feel compelled to write about) I notice that everyone seems to deal with it as a basic 'truck-(or truck driver)-chases-man' thriller. Now, I'm told Mr Spielberg is supposed to have pooh-poohed any 'psychological' reading of this film, but let's imagine for a moment that he's playing a game with us there. What if he really did mean to bury the clues. It's been a while since I saw it (lucky for you, or I'd remember more details), but some of the salient points stay with me always. Mr Mann! Just a coincidence? Of course not. He's you and me, buddy. An average, henpecked, downtrodden guy in a dead-end job, driving the most average car imaginable, too cowed by his boss to stay home for his kid's birthday, yelling in frustrated agreement with the rednecked radio announcer rather than getting out of his car and telling the world where to get off. Because he can't - or won't. (Well, if he did that would be the end of our movie, wouldn't it?) Now, admit it or not, at some time we all have a monster in our lives, somewhere. Something that scares the Hell out of us, and no matter how hard we try to ignore it, or how fast we run, it's always there, waiting around the next corner. For Mann, the truck is this fear. He can't shake it, and he never will - not until he finally turns and faces it. That's why we don't see the driver (and don't need to), that's why the truck has no stand-out markings, that's why it seems to possess impossible power. That's also why it seems to have a life of its own, constantly breathing, wheezing, snorting, almost pawing at the ground when it finds him once more - even to the final moments when it 'dies' like a wounded dinosaur, flipping end-over-end, roaring and bellowing into the canyon, its 'tail' flipping and thrashing above it, its 'blood' finally dripping onto the steering wheel as it breathes its last, and silence finally falls. And go back a few moments: exactly how does Mann dispose of this monster? By taking his nicely monogrammed briefcase (note the CU of his initials in this shot - coincidence?) and wedging it against his boring little Dodge's accelerator pedal, before leaping clear and sending his entire world and identity into Hell. That's why we leave him sitting on the cliff-top in the setting sun. There's no need to see what happens next. It doesn't matter. He's done what he needed to do - he's now free to walk away and start a new life if he wishes, or go home to his family. Whatever. Mann is now in charge of his own destiny. Whenever I watch this movie (not so often these days) I find myself seeing all the myriad other clues that fit the jigsaw so neatly that it's hard to believe it's mere chance. Go take another look - especially if you've hated the damn thing until now. Even if I'm wrong, it makes a fascinating exercise.
Stimmt, Duell. Hat man den LKW-Fahrer eigentlich je gesehen?