Intriguing video essay explains what makes Spielberg Spielberg

Contributed by
Dec 16, 2012

Steven Spielberg seems to be on our minds more than ever these days. He's got two big movies—War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin—headed to theaters this month, and his roster of future projects includes everything from Robopocalypse to a fifth Indiana Jones picture.

With all this Spielbergian stuff going on, it's no wonder that film buffs are revisiting his work in an effort to further understand one of the most distinguished careers in cinema history.

The Spielberg Face is a new 10-minute video essay produced by the cinemaphiles at Fandor, examining one particular element that has defined Spielberg's nearly 40-year career as a director—his exploration of the human face:

"If there is one recurring image that defines the cinema of Steven Spielberg, it is The Spielberg Face. Eyes open, staring in wordless wonder in a moment where time stands still. But above all, a child-like surrender in the act of watching, both theirs and ours. It's as if their total submission to what they are seeing mirrors our own."
We all recognize this face, and for many of us it's a symbol of the kind of childlike enthusiasm that Spielberg brings to his projects. We remember the Spielberg Face particularly because we had our own eyes open wide in wonder when we first saw films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. and Jurassic Park.

Of course, as the video essay goes on to note, the Spielberg Face has since become a bit of a sci-fi cliché. Look at the films of Michael Bay or J.J. Abrams or Peter Jackson and you're likely to see a similar use of the movie close-up, which is only more evidence of Spielberg's far-reaching influence. But, as the essay points out, Spielberg has refused to let his own most iconic cinematic device go stale:

"In his post 9-11 movies, the Spielberg face is an expression of trauma in a world of perpetual danger. In War of the Worlds, Dakota Fanning wears an anti-Spielberg face of innocence lost witnessing unspeakable horrors. In Munich, Avner Kaufman reunites with his wife after years of hunting terrorists. In the first time a Spielberg face is used in a sex scene, the act of intimacy unleashes memories of historical torments he can't suppress."
Over the course of 10 minutes, writer and producer Kevin B. Lee explores the full breadth and power of the Spielberg Face, even pointing out its presence in the less appreciated Spielberg films like A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. The result is a video that will make you look at every Spielberg movie in a different way. You always knew those faces were there, but now more than ever you'll understand why they're there, and why we can't stop staring at them.

(via Fandor)