Spielberg (2017): A Modest Storyteller vs The Spectacle
Spielberg (2017): Modest Storyteller vs The Spectacle: Let us begin by talking about Duel (1971); I feel Duel is a great metaphor for Steven Spielberg’s stature as a filmmaker. He is a modest storyteller driving his little car, with calming music on the sides, but there is a giant truck behind him, almost on the verge of crushing him. The one driving that truck is also Steven Spielberg and that giant of a man is chasing and hounding the modest man to do the cinema of spectacle.
The one driving the car is Spielberg who directed a Sugarland express, an Empire of the Sun, a Schindler’s List (a gigantic entity of its own kind), a Munich or a Lincoln, but the one sitting inside the big bully of a truck, is the man who made Jurassic Park, ET, Indiana Jones or Ready Player One.
It doesn’t allow him, for too long, to be a modest storyteller, it wants him to take dramatic turns which has its own rewards. Pretty much like the film, this, too, is an amazing duel, there doesn’t have to be enmity between the two. But the real struggle is for the balance, the co-existence of the two, and that either one of the two, must not completely take over. Does one really need to push the other off a cliff?
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When the Spielberg in the giant truck pushes too far, the modest Spielberg does manage to beat it with a new humane film, every single time. On the other hand, someone like George Lucas lost to the truck, without even trying. The Star Wars truck completely took over, but let’s save that debate for another time.
Coming back, it’s common criticism that Steven Spielberg, along with George Lucas and the likes of him ruined the individuality of cinema and made it a studio affair. I think it’s an ignorant thing to say. I am not a great admirer of George Lucas and often find myself questioning the significance of Star Wars or Lucas to cinema in general, but I always find that criticism problematic when it comes to Spielberg.
Spielberg (2017) follows the trajectory of his filmography, penetrates into his life, and provides an interesting allegory between his films and his life. There are noticeable stories from his childhood, the separation from his father, the Jewish identity in general in many of his films.
Duel, Close Encounters of The Third Kind, ET, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Artificial Intelligence, War of the Worlds; the themes of his life keep repeating in these films even if these are films of vastly different nature.
Needless to say, Spielberg’s cinema, behind all the spectacle, comes from a very personal space. The modest storyteller often goes unnoticed behind the other man who takes over the marketing, the production, and the business of cinema. The one, who is “driving the truck.”
Perhaps, Steven Spielberg was one of the early people who were gutsy enough to admit that cinema is not just an art form, but it is also a medium that can evolve not just the narrative but on technical and visual grounds as well. Jaws, Jurassic Park and, Ready Player One are among the films that he made to elevate the medium, without shunning the art form.
Spielberg (2017) lets us access the very artistic side of the man, who is so uniformly accused of killing cinema’s soul. Filled with interviews from Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Hanks and almost every great artist he has ever been associated with, the testimonials they have for Steven Spielberg are masterfully examined with a scene right after.
Spielberg (2017), without making it an agenda dishes every ignorant opinion about him as an artist. Steven Spielberg is no salesman, he is just intelligent enough to understand that art needs to be treated as an industry, if you do not want it to die.