His parents, his Jewishness or his childhood, Steven Spielberg has already mentioned them here and there in his films, from
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
But none of his works had been as clearly autobiographical as
, a declaration of love for cinema and his own, a trend he had been developing for nearly twenty-five years.
The story is that of Sammy Fabelman, an American kid who sees his passion for cinema grow as his parents' marriage falls apart.
Decryption of a moving learning story whose roots are deeply rooted in the filmmaker's past.
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In video, The Fabelmans
In video, The Fabelmans
The birth of his vocation
In 1952, little Steven saw his very first film at the cinema:
Under the biggest tent in the world
At barely 6 years old, he is terrified by the key scene of Cecil B. DeMille's feature film: the train accident.
Back home, he decides to recreate the sequence with his electric train, and films a homemade remake of this disaster scene with his father's camera.
This first reconstruction initiated his passion and already shaped a facet of his cinema turned towards the spectacular.
Also, the director naturally makes it the starting point of the vocation of Sammy Fabelman, the young hero of his film and an extension of himself, even in his surname.
If, in German,
means “game” or “play”,
An anxious kid, Spielberg takes refuge in the images and behind his lens at the slightest opportunity.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
in the dark rooms, he canned his first homemade western with his scout friends, and learned the D system, tinkering with traveling shots with a stroller.
He continues with
Escape to Nowhere
, a short film in tribute to his father, a soldier during the Second World War.
The beginnings of
Saving Private Ryan
… During his adolescence, he shot a good fifteen amateur adventure films without which the idea of
might never have germinated in his mind.
He edits each of these films the old-fashioned way, cutting and pasting each sequence by hand.
A craft that he sometimes says he regrets and to which he pays homage in
which, moreover, also reproduces all these first founding shoots.
An inspiring family
The Fabelman parents are largely inspired by those of the filmmaker.
Leah, his mother, whom he often compares to Peter Pan, was a pianist, exuberant, irresponsible and owner of a domestic monkey, like his fictional double played by Michelle Williams.
Like the character played by Paul Dano, his father was an engineer at IBM,
, composed and very much in love with his mother.
Their divorce had a profound effect on the director, who in many of his films (
ET, Empire of the Sun, AI Artificial Intelligence
...), recounts the feeling of abandonment of children.
But, independently of the traces they left on Spielberg, his father, his mother and his three sisters were also his first actors: he constantly staged them in small short films, and filmed family reunions.
All these archives were also made available to his cast before filming.
These reels are, however, charged with a heavy past that he evokes in the film: it was while browsing one of them that he discovered the relationship between his mother and his father's best friend.
A secret that will blow up the hearth.
Discovering the stars
A story of learning requires,
also returns to the first love emotions, school integration or the loss of innocence.
Like his film alter ego, Steven Spielberg thus admits to having been heckled by two anti-Semitic students who, by his own admission, however, did not spoil his schooling.
Long before directing Leonardo DiCaprio or Tom Hanks, he also discovered the aura of actors, the cigeny of certain faces, thanks to a film made for his high school in which a fellow athlete captured all the light.
The result on the screen was so disturbing that the main interested party began to cry and ran away after the screening.
A true story, again transposed to the screen.
A film lesson
In the film, young Sammy moves to Los Angeles with his father, and lands his first studio contract for the
Pure fiction, because it is with
and the fantastic
series that Steven actually cut his teeth.
On the other hand, his brief meeting with John Ford, the cult director of
The Heroic Charge
was very similar to the one told in the film.
Barely returned from a drunken date with one of his conquests, the legend of American cinema, cigar in hand and eye patch in place, receives his fan between two doors and asks him to indicate the line of horizon on pictures.
After the boy has complied, the maestro gives him the key to a good filmmaker's gaze: “When the horizon is up, it's interesting.
When it's down, it's interesting.
When it's in the middle, it's terribly boring.
Wink all the more delectable that it is David Lynch, another giant of the cinema, who camped here the myth.
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“You will live from your art, but it will break your heart, leave you alone, make you an exile.”
The little story does not say whether this line pronounced by Sammy's great-uncle in the film is inspired by real events, but it resonates like the profession of faith of a filmmaker who, for fifty years now, has devoted his life to embellishing ours with stories as personal as they are universal.