More than being a true declaration of love for cinema, The Fabelmans is also a record of director Steven Spielberg’s memories. Known for creating great fantasies that have become classics, the filmmaker decided to use his own story to make this celebration of the magic of the Seventh Art.
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And although the feature is presented as a semi-autobiography that takes many liberties with regard to the facts that happened, the truth is that there are several situations and moments represented in the plot that happened to the Spielberg family and that marked the childhood of little Steven.
At the same time, there are also those romanticizations and exaggerations that cinema loves to do and that always add spice to the story. The problem is that, for the spectator, it is not always easy to differentiate one thing from the other, even more so when the childhood of one of the greatest directors of all time really looks like a movie.
Heads up! This text contains some spoilers for Os Fabelmans. Read carefully to avoid spoiling some of the film’s surprises.
Family art and science
The main tension within the story of Os Fabelmans is the confrontation between art and science that little Sam Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) has at home. Passionate about cinema since he was a child, he sees the clash between the playful and the pragmatic in his father figures, with his mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams) playing a former pianist who encourages her son’s artistic talent, while his father Burt (Paul Dano) he is an engineer who sees cinema as just a hobby for his son.
And this is a situation that Spielberg actually encountered in his childhood and adolescence. His mother, Leah Adler, was a real musician and had been playing the piano since she was five, even studying at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She left her career to dedicate herself to her family.
The director’s father was a highly renowned electrical engineer in the industry. Arnold Spielberg is largely responsible for creating one of the first General Electrics computers and helped develop systems that aided in the development of modern computing.
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As the film presents, the Spielberg family really lived a love triangle. In the feature, Mitzi is in love with her husband’s best friend, Bennie (Seth Rogen). More than that, they have an affair for a while and the end of this clandestine love is what makes the plot of the film move forward.
And, in real life, Steven Spielberg’s parents also went through a similar situation. Leah and Arnold split in 1966, and the following year, she married Bernie Adler, who was Arnold’s best friend at the time.
In the HBO documentary Spielberg, Arnold himself gave more details about the story and revealed that he still loved Leah after all this time and that it was his decision to take the blame for the breakup to spare his ex-wife. For that reason, Steven himself believed for years that his father was responsible for the end of the marriage.
The discovery of betrayal
One of the most fantastic and striking points of The Fabelmans is when Sam discovers his mother’s betrayal: when editing the film made during a vacation trip, he sees images of Mitzi and Bennie as a couple in the background of the images. It’s the moment when the cinema that the boy loves so much will confront his family’s reality in a rather brutal way.
And, as incredible as it sounds, that’s exactly how it happened with the Spielbergs. In an interview with The New York Post, Steven shared that he actually discovered his mother’s cheating at age 16 while editing home footage. According to him, putting this story in the feature was one of the most difficult decisions of Os Fabelmans, as it was exposing one of the biggest secrets of his mother, who died in 2017.
The girl horny on Jesus
There are some points in The Fabelmans that are so exaggerated and caricatured that they seem like a lie, but Steven Spielberg guarantees that they happened – to a greater or lesser extent. This is the case of Sam’s first girlfriend, young Monica (Chloe Eastwood), who is a religious fanatic teenager who is interested in the protagonist because he is Jewish like Jesus Christ and she finds the Savior someone sexy.
At this point, it’s unclear whether this type of situation actually happened. During the promotion of the film, Spielberg commented that the character is inspired by a girl he dated when he was in the seventh grade. However, he does not make it clear whether she had such a specific trait or whether they kissed as a way to convert him.
At the beginning of the third act of Os Fabelmans, Sam enters an artistic crisis and decides that he doesn’t want to do cinema anymore. This was all because of the discovery of her mother’s betrayal and the divorce that soon followed. In the plot, the protagonist feels guilty for what happened and the simple fact that cinema has gone against his family made him reject art.
And, indeed, the young Steven Spielberg went through a period when he thought about retiring the cameras — even though he was only 16 years old. However, contrary to what the film presents, this had nothing to do with the family’s marital situation.
In fact, what turned the young filmmaker off was a crisis of confidence. He had just seen the classic Lawrence of Arabia and was so enthralled by the film that he thought he would never make anything so good. To the Spielberg documentary, the director said that the level of the feature starring Peter O’Toole was so great that he felt paralyzed and unable to do something similar to that.
However, he soon backtracked after watching the classic a few more times. According to Spielberg, he realized that there was a point of no return and that he wanted to make a living in cinema and do something as good as Lawrence of Arabia — or die trying.
the arrival of the monkey
Incredibly, Steven Spielberg’s childhood was also marked by the random arrival of a monkey adopted by his mother. And this is one of the stories in Os Fabelmans that faithfully recreates what the director’s family experienced in the mid-1960s.
In the long, Mitzi begins to suffer with the absence of Bennie after the family leaves Phoenix and moves to Los Angeles. Her mother then goes into a depressive state and, in an attempt to “feel something” — as she herself says —, decides to adopt the simian. Bizarrely, she names the animal after her former lover.
And this really happened in real life, albeit with some differences. In the documentary about her son, Leah Adler remembers that she adopted the monkey in a pet shop in Phoenix and that she was touched by the animal’s story: he was depressed after being separated from his mother.
That way, she took the primate home and the rest of the family soon accepted it. According to Steven, the monkey proved therapeutic for Leah, who was also sinking into depression at the time.
The Encounter with John Ford
In the final scene of The Fabelmans, Sam finally gets a chance to work in film and goes to a TV studio. With that, he gets a speed date with legendary director John Ford, who gives him some brief directing tips in a very peculiar way.
And, according to Steven Spielberg, this entire sequence was recreated almost literally in relation to what actually happened. He says that, when he was just 15 years old, he got a meeting with the director during the Toronto International Film Festival and that all interaction with the person responsible for classics like O Homem que Matou o Facínora and Rastros de Ódio was as shown. in the movie.
This includes both the conversation of just a few minutes, the lessons on positioning the horizon on the camera and even the fact that Ford arrives at the studio late and all covered in lipstick.