WHO is he?

Extremely popular Hollywood film director, screenwriter and producer of enormously successful movies who has directed close to 30 films since the early 1960s. Spielberg took to cinema at a very young age, making 8-mm shorts at home. He co-founded the major production house Dreamworks Studios in 1994. He has won the Academy Award for Best Direction twice for Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998).

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

Spielberg’s films are characterised by their childlike wonder for the new and the extraordinary. Aliens, dinosaurs, robots, adventurers — his films abound with the imaginative power of pre-adolescence. It has been widely noted that his films are full of father figures — which certainly owes something to John Ford’s influence — with whom the various children stand-ins have a strained relationship. Spielberg has also regularly brought to screen various events from world history, presenting narratives in which the struggles of one central character, often a white male, become the driving force that changes the course of History.

Style

Groundbreaking special effects, tracking shots, strong directional lights, expressionist silhouettes and a manipulative musical score are some of the features that comprise Spielberg’s style. One prominent cinematic device in these films is a tracking shot towards the characters looking with awe at an off-screen object, as if they are staring at something out of this world. Frequent collaborators include composer John Williams, editor Michael Kahn, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and producer Kathleen Kennedy.

WHY is he of interest?

Few directors could have been as highly praised and as harshly panned as Spielberg. Champions of his cinema rightly recognise his genuinely creative, highly cinematic, game-changing vision, while his critics, perhaps as justifiably, reprimand him for the dumbing down of American cinema and his manhandling of history. One fact that they can’t help but agree upon, however, is the immense impact his work has made across the world both in the way movies are made and received.

WHERE to discover him?

Far from being the quintessential Spielberg movie, and refreshingly so, his debut work Duel (1971), made for TV, centres on a Plymouth-driving salesman David Mann (Dennis Weaver) who is ceaselessly threatened by a rusty old truck. Through the course of this thrilling, minimalist portrait of the crisis of masculinity, the aptly named Mann’s psychological security and self-assuredness collapses to reveal a bed of neuroses and insecurities.