How Steven Spielberg Edges You To See The True Control Of Art Over Artist In His Film ‘The Fabelmans’

Spielberg, one of the world’s greatest directors, tells his story and writes a love letter to ‘the motion picture’ through a genuinely cinematic movie that represents his formative years as a boy who found his calling in his latest semi-autobiographical film “The Fabelmans.” Spielberg’s signature “sentimentality” makes “The Fabelmans” an emotional experience for anyone who has anything remotely to do with the arts and is captivating for this exact reason. The “Jaws” director channels his entire lifetime of creative turmoil and tumultuous childhood in this film, making it an extremely entertaining drama that makes you feel every emotion felt by the protagonist Sam (excellently performed by Gabrielle LaBelle, who is a subject for another essay), or should we say Steven himself. For a director of this magnitude, Spielberg exceeds expectations and conquers his audience through his ode to, well, the ‘Spielbergs.’ What is extremely fascinating about “The Fabelmans” is that even though (spoiler alert) Spielberg became a glorious director at the end of the day (something none of us can relate to), there are parts of his story, his life that all of us, especially those with the passion for the creative things can feel connected to at an intensely sentimental level. After all, his love for cinema did begin somewhere small, just as it did for us. When one watches a two-hour movie, they are transported to another imaginative world that is not ‘real’ and a tale of fiction or fantasy which helps you forget everything for those two hours; it takes ‘control’ over you. On the other hand, Steven helps us see that movies are what shine a light on things more accurately by showing us how Sam finds solace in the lens of a camera when he has an out-of-body experience viewing his parents’ divorce from the outside (his camera, the only way he can control this experience). 


When Sam is taken to see a movie for the first time, he is mesmerized by the scene of a train that crashes into a car, and he then asks for a toy train as his Hanukkah present. When he gets this present, he uses it to conquer the feeling of crashing and to repeatedly view the spectacle it creates. His mom sees this and realizes he wants to “take control” of this situation with his train and tells him to shoot it with his father’s camera so that the train doesn’t get ruined. Sam makes his first movie then and immediately views it in the palm of his hands (just as Steven has us in the palm of his). Sam, from a young age, finds his love for filmmaking and storytelling and is encouraged by everyone around him to pursue this ‘hobby’ that he takes very seriously. It is very evident from the beginning of “The Fabelmans” that Sam (Steven) sees himself as a very small person in this gigantic world where he can’t really dominate anything, but the only place he does is through a camera and through his awe-inspiring stories.

When Sam is older and his mother Mitzi loses her own mother, his great-uncle Boris comes to visit them. Uncle Boris opens Sam’s eyes to the fact that he cannot “restrain” his love for cinema, which may be deeper than his love for his family. Art is all-consuming by nature, and once it gets a hold of you, you become the most selfish person in the world. When teenage Sam is making movies with boy scouts (in an admirable scene), he tells his “lead actor” how to deliver his lines and look into the distance. He gets so lost in the scene he forgets to yell cut because, at that moment, all he is thinking about is his own life. It is through the videos he has taken that he perceives his mother’s relationship with Uncle Benny. Through that, he shows his mother what he knows and how he knows it best. It is the very thing that takes us out of “reality” that keeps us fixated on it. As someone who watches A LOT of cinema, what really stands out about “The Fabelmans” is how grand it makes everything appear, just as anything new for a child, an experience to surrender to, sticking the landing of what it’s trying to say, Steven’s art is his biggest and ONLY authority. When the entire family finds out about Mitzi and Benny’s romance and how Sam’s parents are getting a divorce, Sam’s first thought is that his mother is the most selfish person in the world. His sister then iterates that he is the most like their mother and just as selfish. Yes, Sam is a lot like his mother, the artist. She is almost “crazy” because of her art, which consumes her body, mind, and soul, leaving out everything and everyone around her. But Sam is also like his father, the scientist who takes them across the country to be the best at what he does. The two mold together to form the perfect synergy through Sam. 


When Sam shoots Ditch Day, he views his anti-Semitic bully Chad as a device to make his video splendid. It doesn’t matter how imperfect he really is or how badly he has treated Sam; all that matters is that he has wings and can fly in the big picture. In the end, Chad is disoriented and can’t believe what Sam has made him look like, putting him on a pedestal he can never reach. Chad tells Sam that life is not like the movies, but Sam reiterates that because of his movie, Chad got the girl in the end. Sam is so overwhelmed by the divorce of his parents that he asks Monica to move cities with him, so he has something to put his life back together. Monica tells him in many words exactly why she can’t do that and how he needs to ‘stop being selfish.’ At the end of the movie, Sam and Burt share a heartwarming moment where Burt realizes he must surrender to his son’s art and let him be free to truly live.  

After so many years of grandiose cinema with superheroes, fantasy, and special effects, it is easy to forget the ‘magic’ of storytelling, but this relatable story about a boy who has a loving family he never wants to lose and finds something that utterly consumes him teaches us to bring our imagination back and remind ourselves why keeping our inner-child alive can help us regard life with much more ease, telling us that “everything will be alright.” Even though the picture is a whole two hours and thirty minutes, it gradually builds up to a grand catharsis (definitely for Spielberg, if not all of us) that eventually fizzles away as it’s only showcasing the beginning of a happy life, not “the end,” (just like real life) which leaves you with a feeling of wanting more! Steven’s ode to his family is a reminder of how important support can be in one’s life to become someone so massively admired. While the divorce of his parents did make a huge mark on Steven’s life, it never dictated his person and only gave him an avenue to be his authentic self, thus finally owning up to the situation he is in. After years of spectacles such as “Jaws,” “ET,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and of course, “Jurassic Park,” all revolving around some sort of family (real or found) that keeps you emotionally invested in the film, even in the grand scheme of things, it is no surprise that “The Fabelmans” keeps one suspended in its magical storytelling and admirable sentimental value, which will leave you laughing a second and teary-eyed the next. 


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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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