Shot Deconstruction: Duel (1971)


As an assessment piece for University, I am working to recreate an excerpt from a story into a rendered 3D sequence. The excerpt I am tackling is from Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. However, as with anything it is important to look at other work, and see what works in making a scene.

The Full Excerpt

Not quite in front but slightly to the right he saw a lake. L-shaped, with rounded corners, and the plane was nearly aimed at the long part of the L, coming from the bottom and heading to the top.Just a tiny bit to the right. He pushed the right rudder pedal gently and the nose moved over.

But the turn cost him speed and now the lake was above the nose.

He pulled back on the wheel slightly and the nose came up. This caused the plane to slow dramatically and almost seem to stop and wallow in the air. The controls became very loose-feeling and frightened Brian, making him push the more with nothing but trees, and put the lake well above the nose and out of reach.
For a space of three or four seconds things seemed to hang, almost to stop. The plane was
flying, but so slowly, so slowly… it would never reach the lake…
…Then everything happened at once. Trees suddenly took on detail, filled his whole field of vision with green, and he knew he would hit and die, would die, but his luck held and just as he was to hit he came into an open lane, a channel of (alien trees, a wide place leading to the lake.
The plane, committed now to landing, to crashing, fell into the wide place like a stone, and Brian eased back on the wheel and braced himself for the crash. But there was a tiny bit of speed left and when he pulled on the wheel the nose came up and he saw in front the blue of the lake and at that instant the plane hit the trees. (Hatchet [1987], Paulsen.G)

I already have a few ideas on how my shot will be composed, but it is always best to refer to other works, and in this case I will be deconstructing a shot from the 1971 movie Duel.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a better quality image.

Stephen Spielberg’s 1971 movie Duel, is about a 40 tonne truck stalking and constantly attempting to kill Dennis Weaver, of whom is driving to a long distance destination. The driver of the truck is never seen, and the unrelenting  truck is used to terrify Dennis. the shot in question has the camera position just above the rear left wheel of Dennis’ car (Similar to an OTS camera placement), where said car takes up roughly half of the screen. The rest is taken up by the side of the road, where movement of the car shows that Dennis almost lost control, the cars wheel momentarily leaving the road.

Out of the context of the film, this shot on it’s own doesn’t mean an awful lot, as the lighting and general content of the shot on its own doesn’t incite the fear and danger of the situation at Hand. However, with the knowledge that Dennis is currently being chased by a truck the unnervingly is going at the same speed as him (90 miles per hour at one point) this slip up shown through a shot like this adds to the tension and fear of the sequence, even being as ‘tame’ as it is. It achieves this by being real, in that it is a road that could be driven on, a car that can be driven, and is being driven by a person that could be anyone, even yourself. The road rage that has escalated to the point of the truck driver wanting you dead as you are trying to drive a long distance. These things that could happen in the world we live in and are presented in a real way, making the core fear and terror shown in the movie have a larger effect on the audience.

How does my shot plan take from/ is similar to this? well, the camera placement is similar, even though the vehicle is different, it being a plane. the camera is placed on the underside of the wing, with the plane overall taking up around 40% of the shot, but instead of taking up a single edge of the shot, the planes wing structure ‘frames’ the focal point of the shot, that beginning to be the lake,but then changing to the oncoming trees. The theme/target emotion for the scene is also similar, that being fear and terror of the very real danger, as the plane is already deathly close to the tree line (Whereas in Duel, the car is quite close to the edge of the road).

You can find the Pre-vis of this shot here


Creative Bloq Staff. (2015). 12 pro tips to improve your artistic composition. Creative Bloq. Retrieved 25 June 2017, from

Duel (TV Movie 1971). IMDb. Retrieved 25 June 2017, from

Elements of Cinematography | Shot Sizes, Camera Angles, Exposure, and more. (2017). Retrieved 25 June 2017, from

Freer, I. (2013). Film Studies 101: The 30 Camera Shots Every Film Fan Needs To Know. Empire. Retrieved 25 June 2017, from

Paulsen, G. (1987). Hatchet. New York: Bradbury Press.


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