A Scene from The Incident by Larry Peerce (1967)
Building a scene in a very small and claustrophobic place is very common when you want to achieve intensity. In “The Incident” director Larry Peerce shuts his characters in a subway cart and let them have it at each other for most of the film duration. Two bullies Joe (Tony Musante) and Artie (Martin Sheen) are terrorizing the 16 passengers of the train cart out of sheer boredom. In the scene I’ve chosen Joe directs his focus at a soldier called Felix (Beau Bridges). Felix is not from New-York so he is not acquainted with such city hooligans. Different from the other passengers he thinks this is all some kind of drunkards joke, and he is less intimidated by violent Joe. Very soon in the conversation Felix realizes that this talk could lead to some serious beating and tries to lay back. At this point Joe is already furious at the soldier who dares speak to him without the fear he’s so ferociously tries to spread.
This scene is building the tension around having someone who is strange to the situation and culture and see how he can handle it. When we watch the scene we are obviously aware that Felix is handling it all wrong and might get hurt. We are afraid for his safety but somehow feel a little bit better that all of a sudden someone is not so quickly drawn into being a victim and doesn’t show fear in front of these two wild rabid dogs.
Since most of “The Incident” is situated in one place and has one continues time, the scenes are divided by the dramaturgy. In each scene Joe or Artie focus their attention in another passenger and in between they take a moment to breath and look around them. These moments allow the audience to feel a little relief after watching how Joe torments one guy, and feel obnoxious when he searches the cart for his next victim.