Steven Spielberg has directed some of the biggest films of all time. Titles including Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Minority Report have provided a stellar career. Reeling off those films alone proves that Spielberg is an absolute monolith in popular cinema.
Spielberg’s films are among the highest-grossing of all time, and nine of his works have been inducted into the National Film Registry for their cultural, historical and aesthetic significance.
However, despite being influenced by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman and Francois Truffaut, Spielberg believes that his manner of making movies is somewhat style-less. He revealed as much in conversation with the American Film Institute.
“You know, you have a filmmaker like Orson Welles who could only make an Orson Welles picture, and that’s all he could do,” said Spielberg. “And I always envied filmmakers like Scorsese, who made quintessential Scorsese pictures. Even Kundune has so much of Marty in that picture.”
“I’ve never felt that of myself; I never felt I had a style,” he added. “I’ve always felt that I was style-less; that I was a really good storyteller; that I could tell a highly stylised story as told by the screenwriter, and I would adapt their style in the way I would tell the story. I would serve the screenwriter and be a good storyteller, but I wouldn’t impose. I don’t feel I have a style.”
Perhaps Spielberg is expressing some form of modesty here. His films have at least some semblance of style; they are often grand portrayals of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, elevated by the scores of long-time collaborator John Williams. Though maybe much of that work is, indeed, to do with the talent of the scriptwriter.
Spielberg’s works differ significantly from those of directors such as Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch or Stanley Kubrick, where, more often than not, you know you are watching their films without knowing exactly what they are. Spielberg also elaborated on the distinctive styles of his contemporaries and favourite filmmakers.
“Hitchcock had a style, and Scorsese had a style, and certainly, Welles had a style,” Spielberg said. “But I identify more with people like Victor Fleming and Michael Curtiz because they didn’t have styles either; they were chameleons, and they could quickly adapt. They could go from a story about heaven and an afterlife to the Civil War in Gone With The Wind.”
Spielberg added, “They could do a lot of different subjects, and they could do them well because they were good craftsmen, and they were good with actors, and they could draw good performances, but they didn’t impose a kind of ‘who they were’ on ‘what that was’ and I always felt I was more in their game.”