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Author Topic: IN THE LINE OF FIRE: Style & Technique: 1. Petersen's Direction  (Read 1717 times)
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« on: August 18, 2003, 12:15:22 AM »

When asked by James Verniere why Eastwood chose Wolfgang Petersen to direct In the Line of Fire, Eastwood replied:

I loved Das Boot. Some of his later films have been better than others, but I always felt he had a certain size and that he brought a certain scope to his films. I got the feeling that he prefers John Ford movies to television. Too many of our young directors make films that look like television. Although I don't want to sound superstitious, I also thought that a European might take a different look at American subject matter, in much the way that Sergio Leone did in the 60s. Castle Rock had some other people they might have preferred, but I've been directing for 23 years and I didn't want somebody who was brand new to the field. I wanted somebody with experience.
(Sight and Sound 3, no. 9 (September 1993), p. 6-9, reprinted in Clint Eastwood: Interviews, p. 211-212)

Do you feel Wolfgang Petersen was a good choice to direct this film? Do you agree with Eastwood that a European may have given a different look to the film than an American? If so, in what ways?

List the strengths and any weaknesses in the direction, including anything you find particularly striking about the film's visual style: camera placement, lighting, point of view, length of shots, etc.
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« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2003, 08:35:54 PM »

I loved Das Boot as well, Clint! ;)

How do I properly say this? I'd need to watch it at least two more times before I could comment with any detail about the mechanics of Wolfgang's direction, but I did find one standout feature of his directing style while watching Line Of Fire... it's that he has no one standout feature to his directing style.

Some directors, think Kubrick or Spielberg, are telling you something in the course of telling the story. They inject a film with some measure of their personal view, their preference, their message. They leave readily identifiable calling cards, from Spielberg's fascination with lighting and transition to Kubrick's lone, static camera bravado. Peterson, on the other hand, has to be one of the most transparent, discreet directors I've ever not seen :)

Others with keener eyes might disagree, but to me, he just doesn't focus on any noticeable tricks or techniques at the expense of any others. His presence is one step further removed from the end result than most other directors. His calling card is the absence of a calling card.

I know from the behind-the-scenes footage on the Das Boot Director's Cut that he is a big fan of technical innovation and painstaking realism. He pioneered the modern use of the Steadi-cam in that movie, and the inside of the submarine was meticulously recreated from photos and accounts of actual U-boats and their crews. He seems to be big on authenticity.

And he brings all of this to Line Of Fire, but never seemingly at the expense of surrealism (everything about Mitch Leary, except, of course, for Mitch Leary himself, is so otherworldly). And he definitely provides viewers who are searching for symbolism with plenty to discuss, but never to the point that enjoyment of the film would be noticeably lessened if you missed any of it. His approach seems balanced to the degree that it disappears from the viewer's radar.

This balance, coupled with his foreign background, made for a wonderfully non-Jingoistic look at a story set against the American political landscape. Thank god for that. :)
« Last Edit: August 22, 2003, 08:37:52 PM by eustressor » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2003, 10:57:01 AM »

I think Peterson was an excellent choice as director. In Das Boot  he works a lot with the characterisation of the members of the crew. In this film this is crucial, to understand the personal level between Horrigan and Leary. He also, since a submarine is so narrow, filmed a lot of close-ups, which may have suggested him the great visualization of the phone-calls. And I do think the fact that he is European does make a difference. Of course I don't know how the film would have been, had it been directed by a citizen of the US. But just  watching the documentary about secret service, you can tell that they are portrayed as special people doing a special job. This is right of course, but it's just a job, a demanding one, but a job.  My fear is that a director from the US might have been  too much in awe of the secret service, and then overpraise them. This would have hurt the realism of the movie.
He seems to be big on authenticity.
I can only agree with you, eustressor. And I think the fact that the movie seems so realistic is one great quality of it.

"He wondered what the man's name was and where he was from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home: and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace" Sam, TTT, written by JRR Tolkien, 1954
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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2003, 05:55:14 PM »

Thanks to everyone for participating in this discussion. This topic is now closed, please post any additional thoughts in the General Discussion forum.
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