“The Fabelmans”: the intimate love letter that Spielberg sends to the cinema

Steven Spielberg looks back and revisits what made him fall in love with the seventh art in “The Fabelmans”, an autobiographical film in which he fictionalizes his childhood and adolescence and the way in which cinema accompanied him through the ups and downs of family life, and which arrived this Thursday at local theaters after obtaining seven nominations for the next Oscars, including Best Picture.

Written jointly by the multi-award-winning filmmaker and playwright Tony Kushner, the initiation narrative offered by Spielberg is a breath of fresh air in his career, not because it is necessary but because of the uniqueness it plants in a list of films that, from different genres, It was characterized by inviting the public to surrender to the magical experience of the big screen.

Going through extraordinary or supernatural situations, the characters to which one of the great names in Hollywood has accustomed the audience are stripped of heroism in “The Fabelmans”: he, his parents, his sisters and the people who come and go in his youth have as many virtues as earthly vices, under a lens that seeks not to overly dramatize or romanticize the world that it reconstructs.

The contrast is strong with the director’s latest installment, who returned to the ring in 2021 after three years with the vibrant remake of the classic -and today somewhat anachronistic- musical “Love without barriers”, its attractive choreographies and colorful dresses. Now, Spielberg turns down all the spectacularity knobs to talk about himself and what it was like to survive the instability of the stripped-down American dream in the 1960s.

The Fabelmans – Official Trailer

First it was Francoise Truffaut with “The 400 Blows” (1959) and Federico Fellini with “Amarcord” (1973), much later came “Crooklyn” (1994), by Spike Lee, and “Family Stories” (2005), by Noah Baumbach. Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” (2018), Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory” (2019); and the memory of Kenneth Branagh in “Belfast” (2021) made the list grow. Trend, sign of maturity or both, it was Spielberg’s turn to look back on his past and tell audiences his own origin story.

With this objective, the plot introduces Sammy Fabelman, who in his early childhood and in the shadows of a movie theater discovers -with a direct tribute to the birth of this art and its inseparable relationship with trains- the power of the image in movement to provoke feelings such as fear and excitement. Led by his mother, Mitzi (a brilliant Michelle Williams), and not always understood by his father, Burt (Paul Dano), the boy will grow up looking for himself with the camera attached to his hand.

Already a teenager -played by the young Gabriel LaBelle in a remarkable performance-, Sammy tries to devote as much time as possible to the increasingly ambitious amateur films he makes with the gunslingers and adventures he has always consumed. But also, he becomes the one in charge of documenting the inconstant family life, with its permanent moves and changes.

However, he will soon discover that this creative capacity can also be just as destructive: any remnant of innocence that remained in him is shattered when one of his records is the one that causes a change in his gaze about his parents, about his marriage, about what they are willing to sacrifice. It is the cinema, but not the enchantment effect of it, that marks his break with childhood.

"The Fabelmans": the intimate love letter that Spielberg sends to the cinema.
“The Fabelmans”: the intimate love letter that Spielberg sends to the cinema.

In any case, the conflicts and reconciliations with his family, the shyness and bullying of high school, the first loves and all the spices that make up the adolescent experience do nothing but confirm his obsession with narrating life in 24 frames per second. It will be an almost fortuitous meeting with a titan of the Los Angeles studio system that will culminate a story that, transferred to Spielberg’s real life, was actually just beginning.

“Most of my films have been a reflection of what happened to me in my formative years. In everything a filmmaker does, even if the script is by someone else, your life is going to end up coming off the celluloid, whether you like it or not. That always ends up happening. But in ‘Los Fabelmans’ it was not about the metaphor, it was about memory,” Spielberg explained in statements to the press ahead of the release of the tape.

In this sense, the also director of “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Rescuing Private Ryan” (1998) delved: “I didn’t want the story to be told in a vanity mirror. I wanted it to be a community mirror for so people could see their own families within the story. Because this story is about the good and bad things that happen when you grow up in a family that stays together, until it doesn’t. It’s about the act of forgiveness and what’s important what it is,” he said.

“It was difficult. I can’t even imagine going through my career without telling this story. For me it was like a time machine, and that machine suddenly turned off, and now all the memories are locked up and have an order. … well, as Thomas Wolfe said, ‘you can’t go home’. And by the end of the shoot I realized that I never could. But at least I can share this,” Spielberg concluded.

"The Fabelmans": the intimate love letter that Spielberg sends to the cinema.
“The Fabelmans”: the intimate love letter that Spielberg sends to the cinema.

Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, Jeannie Berlin, Julia Butters, Robin Bartlett and Tina Schildkraut, among others, complete the cast of this proposal that will arrive in theaters with the company of a soundtrack composed by the emblematic John Williams -in its 28th. collaboration with the filmmaker- and after yesterday it was known that he will compete in seven categories in the laurels of the Hollywood Academy.

Although without running as the great favorite but as a strong competitor after obtaining the awards for Best Dramatic Film and Best Director at the Golden Globes, Spielberg’s work already obtained the recognition of being considered for those same categories and for the shortlists. for Best Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay, Music and Production Design.

“The Fabelmans”: the intimate love letter that Spielberg sends to the cinema