It’s impossible to make a documentary out of the life of Steven Spielberg that feels wholly comprehensive. Even with a 2.5 hour runtime, the aptly titled Spielberg leaves us feeling that it could have done more.
Susan Lacy’s documentary about the life of the iconic filmmaker takes a textbook approach to its subject matter. A career as vast as Spielberg’s can be difficult to condense.
Naturally, it opened with Spielberg going back to his roots, discussing how even in childhood, he was fixated on a future in filmmaking. His opening lines reveal that it was a screening of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia that changed his life. Enthralled by what he saw, he realized that the bar was set too high for him, and the only escape from this intimidation was simply to create.
Arguably, Steven Spielberg has not yet directed a film as momentous as Lawrence of Arabia, but he did craft many that are just as impactful in their own rite. Many peers and critics see him as “that” director, one with the talent to create films of broad commercial appeal. His work holds a universal quality, engaging audiences and studios alike.
The best part of Spielberg is its self-awareness of Spielberg’s downsides as an artist: that he isn’t some “God of Cinema” who turns every script into gold. Even Spielberg sometimes doubts his own abilities, particularly when transitioning to more mature tales such as Schindler’s List or The Color Purple.
Beyond an analysis of his talent, the documentary dives deep into the vulnerability of Steven Spielberg. From E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, each film he makes is an opportunity to reveal a portion of his softest past. It’s impressive stuff that we never really get a chance to see in other documentaries about filmmakers.
They say the best stories are the most personal, and this is largely true. Steven Spielberg is a living embodiment of how storytelling–regardless of the genre–can be a chance to tell your own tale.