The Fabelmans (2022) Ending Explained – What does the meeting mean for Sammy? 

The Fabelmans Plot Synopsis

The Fabelmans is a project the mercurial director, Steven Spielberg, has chased all his life. Out of respect for his parents, it could never materialize. But their passing away finally took the pressure of Spielberg’s chest to make this happen. This semi-autobiographical account offers a tender peek into the life of a Jewish family with geniuses on both sides of science and art. The constant tussle for control progresses The Fabelmans, while also showing us how the great man himself fell for movies like us.

So what’s going on with the ending?Let’s take a closer look at the plot, themes, and some creative decisions that Spielberg took to morph his emotions and feelings.

How does Sammy get to know about his mother’s affection for Bennie?

When Mitzi’s mother dies, she starts to spiral into madness. One such instance was when she gets a dream that her mother has called her on the telephone and strictly advised her against “letting him in”. It turns out that the man was Boris, Mitzi’s uncle, who arrives the next day. It was clear to Burt that there was something wrong with Mitzi and that he needed help to make it right again. He defeatedly accepts that to Sammy in his room, saying “I do not know what more I could do”. To cheer her up, he requests Sammy to help him and make his mother a movie from the camping trip they took to Arizona.

Sammy reluctantly agrees and starts perusing the film for material to cut. While doing so, something in the background catches his attention. Her mother and Bennie’s display of affection becomes a bit repetitive and eventually, the realization dawns upon him. He plays it and replays it several times to make sure of what he is seeing. And finally, he accepts it.

Mitzi and Bennie seem to have fallen for each other. There were several cues for the viewer at least to gauge what was wrong. No one in the cinematic universe itself, perhaps except for Burt, could see it coming. He then makes a film especially for Mitzi to see. And from her reaction, it seems that even she did not know about her feelings. She had fallen out of love with Burt a long time ago but never confronted it. She also perhaps felt guilty for allowing her son to think ill of her.

What is the significance of the camping trip movie in the film?

The camping trip movie Sammy makes, called “Escape to Nowhere” is a strong metaphor that represents many things.  This is arguably one of the most important moments in the film where you really start to see a pattern. The theme of communicating through movies, or storytelling, is foremostly cemented by Spielberg. Sammy was at a stage where he started to pour his life experiences and his maturity into his work. When he confronts his friend playing the platoon leader, he channels his inner frustrations with his mother. He was extremely upset with her for being so selfish and putting her familial life at risk.

He got all of that in the film and learned the art of storytelling through these small experiments. It also establishes his credentials as a keen filmmaker who could produce magic with his skill and insight. That movie marked a phase in his life when he grew a bit selfish himself and started getting to be lost in his work. It was perhaps his coming of age as a storyteller and that is why Spielberg builds it up as such an important event in the film.

It also showed how fearful Sammy was of what would happen to his family when the truth eventually comes out. If you superimpose the things he says to the friend playing the platoon leader onto his family situation, you will get your answer.

What did the move to California do to Mitzi?

It broke her heart. For the first time, she had to live without Bennie and realized that she could not handle it. She “died”, in a way; her old self that was so helplessly and unwittingly in love with Bennie did. She wouldn’t get out of bed, wouldn’t cook, and didn’t even unpack the piano. Mitzi was acting out and got a monkey as an act of defiance. Naming it Bennie should have sealed the deal but Burt’s non-confronting nature ensured the bitterness lingered on for long. The monkey turned out to be a vain compensation anyway.

Burt was right indeed. Mitzi was in mourning – for herself mainly. There is a moment when en-route to California, the car stops and Mitzi steps out. Sammy follows her and comforts her about her fear of letting Burt down when he learns the truth. She deceived herself when she said to Sammy that she will be selfless and be a good mother to the girls. Her inability to do so had an adverse impact on Mitzi. There were so many things that went against her that she needed someone like Bennie to cheer her up.

It was the final nail in the coffin and sealed the deal on Mitzi and Burt’s marriage. They had their good moments but it was now clear that their partnership was unsustainable. Irrespective of how the kids would react, Mitzi was going back to Phoenix to be with Bennie and divorce Burt.

Why did Mitzi and Bennie want Sammy to make movies again?

Mitzi left her career as a pianist to be a housewife and take care of the kids. The traditional role she assumed in the familial hierarchy did not make her resentful of the kids but still made her suffer. Her longing to be herself came out in short bursts and always seemed to make chaos around her. The artist inside her could never settle with this perceived mediocrity when she was poised for greatness, even as a kid, as Uncle Boris confirms in a scene with Sammy.

In Sammy’s moviemaking ability, she saw something alive that resonated with her. She saw a part of herself in Sammy’s creativity. It kept her alive and made her proud that her son took after her. Bennie understood this made her happy. This is also a point of distinction between him and Burt and what made Mitzi fall for the former. Bennie understood and appreciated that part of Mitzi that made her happy. Burt kept calling Sammy’s passion for moviemaking a “hobby”.

It was almost like an insult to him and Mitzi, something they did not understand. But Burt was that kind of a man; practical, stoic, and vanilla plain. He was a man of science and made revolutionary strides in his field. This represents the “creativity vs. science” theme very relevant in the film as well.

How does Boris prove to be right about Sammy?

Boris and Sammy’s conversation is the soul of the film. It is a window to the mind of every skeptic who is mistrusting of the nature of art and how it can or cannot isolate an artist from everything else. For a brief moment, Sam considers the dramatic potential of filming the scene in which his parents express their desire for a divorce.

At this point, Sammy realizes that his Uncle Boris was right when he said that “one must be ruthlessly self-centered in order to truly pursue any artistic genius”. That scene must be replayed in your head when you read this and you must watch it again in this context to understand the point.

What does the meeting mean for Sammy? 

The Fabelmans’ ending was not too spectacular or something that needs too much discussion of specifics. As the film is a semi-autobiographical account and Sammy represents Spielberg in his younger days, it is quite straightforward that Sammy does indeed become a filmmaker later in his life. And a pretty good one too! But what does the meeting with Jon Ford signify for Sammy in the context of the film?

Well, after his parents separate, he goes with Burt to live in LA to pursue his dream of working in the movies. He also made a 3-hour trip every day to college to get a degree as Burt wished. It rendered him exhausted and he had a panic attack like his mother used to have, as Burt explains later.

Sammy kept writing letters to studios to give him a chance to work on sets in order to learn about the art of filmmaking. Countless attempts were wasted but CBS finally wrote back, Before that, Sammy finds a letter from Mitzi with pictures from a block party in Phoenix. Bennie and the girls accompany her in the photo, breaking Burt’s heart but also making him realize how happy she was now.

The letter invites Sammy to work on an upcoming season of the television show Hogan’s Heroes. The network exec who calls him says even he used to write letters like Sammy and connected with that part. And then comes the meeting with John Ford.

It is brief, like all his meetings (according to his secretary) and Sammy gets an important technical lesson. He shows him paintings of scenes from his films and asks him where the horizon is in each of them. He then summarizes that when the horizon is placed at the bottom or the top, the picture is interesting. If it is placed like real life, the picture is boring.

That marks the end of the meeting and Sammy’s zeal for filmmaking seems to be back. The camera too adjusts intentionally to show the horizon as Ford would have liked. It is a clear way of paying tribute to one of Spielberg’s childhood heroes. Ford’s legend is undeniable and fondly remembered by those around him. Since the movie celebrated Spielberg’s love for cinema among many things, this ending seemed to be in line with representation. It is a personal part of his journey from a child to a legend.


Read More: The Fabelmans Movie Review

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