“The Fablemans”: the youth of Steven Spielberg told by himself, in a biopic cinephile

Steven Spielberg is a case. With The Fablemans, on the screens Wednesday February 22, he is the first director to have shot and produced his own biopic. It would not miss any more that he interprets it! Reduced to its first twenty years, The Fablemans is subject to a sequel. The apocalyptic filming of Sea teeth, his first feature film, would make a good film. If so, would the subject of Steven Spielberg become a franchise?

Declaration of love

Sam Fablemans, dazzled at the age of eight by a film seen with his parents at the cinema, discovered a vocation as a director. He borrows his engineer father’s camera, encouraged by his mother, and films family skits and fictional scenes with his friends. Sammy’s vocation takes on more and more space, while his parents are going through a serious emotional crisis which he discovers by filming them without their knowledge. Shocked by this revelation, Sam will emancipate himself from it by becoming a professional director.

Very early on, Steven Spielberg confided in his films. The broken family unit is a recurring theme in Dating of the Third Kind, ETOr War of the Worlds. The director of the first modern blockbuster with Jaws (1975) also cites his cinephilic pantheon in his films, in love with genre cinema and John Ford. It is moreover on the latter that closes The Fablemans in an anthology scene. The Fablemans is Steven Spielberg’s declaration of love for cinema.

Double bottom

The Fablemans is a reflection of its director, at least from what we know of him (his biography, Steven before Spielberg signed Gilles Penso, just published by Robert Laffont). The film is the mirror not only in the facts inspired by reality – the youth of Spielberg -, but also in its form, its cinematography. We recognize its fairy tale lights when it touches on childhood, the subject of the film and many of its many others. Janusz Kaminski has been shooting the image for Spielberg since 1993, and the film’s stills are stunning. The lyricism, sometimes supported, is also found, its peak being reached in the end of ET which made date. But one of the greatest successes of The Fablemans resides in transmitting a child’s passion for the cinema. It extends to the early production of a host of increasingly sophisticated amateur short films, edited with the means at hand, inventive and enthusiastic.

Actor-chameleon Paul Dano takes on the skin of Sammy/Steven’s father and Michelle Williams that of mum Spielberg, both in a double-bottomed interpretation. Indeed, their apparent overplay as ideal parents hides the secret they share and which their son will discover, played by adolescent Gabriel LaBelle – after Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord, who plays Sammy as a child -, comedian just out of the egg. We wonder a good part of the film when will burst the crisis, which every Spielberg lover knows. What emerges is a quasi-Hitchcockian suspense, as the master of suspense has defined it: “to make the viewer wait for what he knows is inevitable”. Pure Spielberg. But how could it be otherwise?

The sheet

Gender : Biopic, Drama
Director: Steven Spielberg
Actors: Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch
Duration : 2h31
Exit : February 22, 2023
Distributer : Universal International Pictures France


Passionate about cinema, Sammy Fabelman spends his time filming his family. If he is encouraged in this way by his mother Mitzi, endowed with an artistic temperament, his father Burt, an accomplished scientist, considers his passion to be above all a hobby. Over the years, Sammy, by dint of pointing his camera at his parents and sisters, has become the documentarian of the family history! He even makes increasingly sophisticated little amateur films, performed by his friends and his sisters. But when his parents decide to move to the west of the country, he discovers a shocking reality about his mother that shakes up his relationship with her and rocks his future and that of those close to him.

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