Excerpt from an interview with Steven Spielberg by Richard Combs - Sight & Sound Spring 1977
Do you have a strong sense of the similarities between your films, of any kind of stylistic continuity?
I can certainly see a pattern and a similarity between Duel and Jaws, a similarity between The Sugarland Express and a film I'm about to begin. But as far as style within a body of work is concerned, I'm a little too subjective to have feelings about that. What I'm fighting is believing my own journalism, and just trying to form my own opinions about myself. I don't think I've made enough films to do that yet, and most of my films haven't been as personal as I think I am to myself. The film-maker who really influenced me more than any other is John Frankenheimer. Not visually but as an editor. His editing often has more energy than the content of the story. When I saw The Manchurian Candidate, I realised for the first time what film editing was all about. After that, I made a number of 8mm films at home and began to experiment with cutting and juxtaposing scenes and tricks in the cutting room. I learned all the negative things, the things I try not to do in movies, from television. One thing I learned from TV was that there was nothing worse than a close-up that's from the chin to the forehead. I remember watching Paths of Glory and realising how few tight close-ups there were, but when Kubrick used a close-up it meant something. I think Badlands and Barry Lyndon are very similar films in terms of starring the period and mood of the film, the way the film feels between your fingers, over what you tell your friends it's about. I like Barry Lyndon, but for me it was like going through the Prado without lunch. And when Terrence Malick's film was over, I really felt as though I was covered with dust and my hair was greasy and I felt like taking a shower. I'm just the opposite, I think, in terms of the films I'm making. Sometimes I'll completely forfeit style for content. That's why I feel that Jaws does not have a style. Jaws is all content, experiment. Jaws is almost like I'm directing the audience with an electric cattle prod. I have very mixed feelings about my work on that picture, and two or three pictures from now I'm going to be able to look back on it and see what I've done. I saw it again and realised it was the simplest movie I had ever seen in my life. It was just the essential moving, working parts of suspense and terror, with just enough character development that at one point in the movie you hate Scheider and you hate Shaw and you hate Dreyfuss, within the roles they're playing, and then you like them again. We would get into these very deep conversations about everyone's motivation, and why they were born to fight the shark, and go out next morning and kiss their wives goodbye and duel with the deep. And then I saw the movie last week and realised that what we were talking about were the basic primitive instincts man has about things that he doesn't understand and is afraid of. We were talking about things that go bump in the night. I could have made that a very subtle movie if I wanted to. I could have done a lot of things to make it much more appealing to the way I think at night as opposed to the way I think on a sound stage. I think in a way I'm two different people; my instincts always commandeer my sensibilities, or my intellect is always beaten down by my instincts.