The Fabelmans

The Fabelmans

The Fabelmans is Steven Spielberg's David Copperfield. There's the obvious connection: two artist autobiographies filtered through fiction (some distant relative to the nebulous, currently popular "autofiction" mode), but there are also richer narratological, thematic, and tonal similarities between the two texts.

Both Copperfield and Fabelmans have a tendency to sink into aggressively sentimental melodrama, which can be irksome at times. However, they both also demonstrate intuitions for archetypal characterizations anchored to social truth; they contain sprawling journeys through their respective national mythologies, filtered through the intense subjective experiences of artists. Indeed, both Spielberg and Dickens understand, on a deep level, the hyper-sensory and emotionally overpowering subjectivities of creative children.

Like Copperfield, Fabelmans works because it surveys a totality of experience, exploring psychological torment and human cruelty as brazenly as it wades into wonder and awe. Its inherent metatextuality is fascinating, too, never rib-nudgingly obvious but instead built organically into the fabric of the drama.

This is such a convincing depiction of the adolescent artist's loneliness and acute sensitivity, the desperate need to find escape hatches from a world of domestic conflict, deception, violence, and uncaring. It's not so much a "love letter to cinema" as it is a representation of a life inextricably bound with cinema, a life processed and understood through the mysterious imaginary of the lens. As depicted by Spielberg and Kushner, this is a bittersweet but beautiful thing.

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