Courtesy of Arts Commented
I wasn’t sure what to expect when saw The Fabelmans in Washington with my mom and grandmom. All I knew was that it was the semi-autobiographical story of Steven Spielberg’s life, a famed director whom made many movies I’d enjoyed, such as Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Jaws, and E.T.
I’m happy to report that the movie did not disappoint.
The film centers on the life of Sam Fabelman. After seeing the movie The Greatest Show on Earth as a kid, which contains a climactic train crash, he becomes obsessed with recreating the scene, begging his parents for a train set for Hannukah, to use as a prop. His mother, Mitzi, lets Sam use the camera to record the crash in secret.
Speilberg focuses on different ways movies can be used. They can be fantastical, like when Sam roped his Boy Scout friends into acting in a Western and a war movie. Filmmakers can explore the more technical side of moviemaking, like when Sam buries wooden planks so that when actors step on them, it appears as though they are being hit by bullets, or when he pokes holes in the actual film itself with a pin, creating little bursts of light that look like muzzle flashes. Film can also reveal reality; When Sam discovers a secret that could tear apart his family, he makes two films, one showcasing his family’s happiness, and the other the bitter truth. I felt incredibly connected to Sam because of how I could relate to him, being Jewish and having a love for movies and moviemaking myself.
Spielberg’s cinematography is gorgeous. One of the most amazing parts of the movie is two intercut scenes; in one, Sam cuts together the camping footage to show what his mother has been hiding, while at the same time, in another room, Mitzi passionately plays the piano while Sam’s dad Burt watches from afar. The camera spins around, illustrating the emotion that Sam is feeling: the image of what he thought were his parents falling apart and the realization of what he saw in one.
Sam’s character is an unflattering portrayal of Spielberg himself; Sam’s uncle Boris comes home and tells Sam he’s an artist—however much he loves his family, he’ll love making movies more. This same idea repeats later; when Mitzi and Burt are getting a divorce his sister comes to his room, wanting to be comforted, and instead, Sam brushes her off and asks her opinion on his film. And in creating a movie of his senior class’s beach trip, Sam gave every person in the class an opportunity to shine. Even though Sam despises his bully, he still films him in an extremely flattering way. He asks Sam why he filmed him like that when he treated him so horribly, and Sam says he doesn’t know. I believe Sam put the movie above his feelings toward his tormentor, because he is an artist first.
This movie was a beautifully acted piece of cinema, and Spielberg’s harshness towards his own character only added to the realism of the film. I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants to watch a kid figure out he’s an artist and pursue his dreams, above anything else.