Macquarie University

Thesis file(s) suppressed due to copyright restrictions

Reason: On receipt of a Document Supply Request, placed with Macquarie University Library by another library, we will check if we can supply a copy of this thesis. For more information on Macquarie University's Document Supply, please contact

Prizing the popular: Steven Spielberg and style by stealth

posted on 2022-03-27, 21:48 authored by James Mairata
During his career, Steven Spielberg has both created and facilitated the creation of a remarkable quantity and range of popular entertainment. With two of the films he has directed in the top ten all-time box office revenue list and seven in the top one hundred, his popular success as a director of narrative cinema remains unrivalled in Hollywood and possibly in the world. Spielberg is clearly very good at recognising and telling stories that appeal to a wide audience. Critics and scholars have written extensively on the thematic, semantic and symptomatic aspects of his films but little analysis has been devoted to examining how he constructs narrative - how he makes use of style and its role in enhancing the popularity of his films. This thesis argues that Spielberg utilises stylistic strategies that are both unique and innovative when considered within the context of the classical Hollywood system. I identify two distinct systems at work in Spielberg’s application of style. One is the use of deep space compositions and staging, a form that was commonly seen in Hollywood cinema until the rise of the “New Hollywood” in the early 1970s. The other system is based on the ubiquitous shot, reverse shot arrangement most commonly used for dialogue scenes, and which Spielberg has modified into what I label as wide reverses. Through the integration of both systems, Spielberg is able to create a more “complete” visual sense of scenographic space and a more comprehensive world of the narrative, while still remaining within the conventional boundaries of classical style. The wide reverse system also permits him to present a more highly developed version of Hollywood’s conventional practice of rendering style as transparent or unnoticed. This, together with the wide reverse further enables Spielberg to create a narrative that offers the spectator both a more immersive and more affective experience.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter I. Fundamentals of classical narration -- Chapter II. Spielberg as filmmaker -- Chapter III. Continuity editing as system -- Chapter IV. Deep space composition and staging -- Chapter V. Space and the wide reverse strategy -- Chapter VI. The wide reverse and extended variation -- Chapter VII. The wide reverse, cognition and effect -- Chapter VIII. Manifestations of the wide reverse in cinema -- Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 283-306

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

John Potts


Copyright James Mairata 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




United States


1 online resource (vi, 335 pages) colour illustrations

Former Identifiers