Release date: Dec. 18, 1968
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Richard Levin, Pamela McMyler
Box office: n/a
Two wanderers meet in the desert.
The first film Spielberg ever released as per his professional career, Amblin’ is an average film. The most notable element is its dialogue, or lack thereof. Neither of the two characters talk during the entire length of the film. However, this is replaced by ambient noise from the few cars they come across on the road, all the wildlife surrounding them, the wind and the sounds of a fire and popping noises they make in one scene. In fact, the only two words the audience even hears are from two songs opening and closing the film. As short as it is, not having any dialogue helps to accentuate the characters’ actions and their silence makes it so the ambient noises come in clearly to paint a proper picture of how alone the characters find themselves.
The cinematography is done well throughout the film as well, doing its part to show the desertedness of the desert. One scene depicts the two characters interacting inside a tunnel. They’re mostly in silhouette in this scene until one of them steps outside prompting the camera to show him walking out. It continues pulling back into a full wide shot, ultimately portraying him as a small speck on the landscape. The camera work during the scene where the two of them have a spitting contest is worth noting as well. When showing where the pits land, the camera gets low to the ground, enough so an insect can be seen crawling along. It works to create an investment into what the characters are doing.
Nevertheless, despite the well-done aspects, the film employs a pretty basic plot where not much happens other than the two characters meeting and attempting to hitch a number of rides to their destination, sharing some intimate moments and coming to their goal. The only feature within the story breaking up the monotony is the young man’s guitar case that he never opens nor does he allow anybody else to do so. It does make for an interesting aspect to focus on, but it really only comes into focus once or twice. Further, the characterization found in the film provides only the necessities. Still, it works as Spielberg’s first professional story where he was honing the skills to become the storyteller he is considered to be.
Atlanta Film Festival
Jury Award - Best Short Film
CINE Competition - Golden Eagle Award
Gold Remi Award - Short Subject - Live Action