How Steven Spielberg Dramatizes the Dinner Table

Here's a look at all the humble, but essential, scenes in the films of Steven Spielberg that center around the dinner table.

Steven Spielberg Dinner Table Scenes Et
Universal Pictures

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Amidst the long list of things that UNESCO is sworn to protect is something called “intangible cultural heritage.” Unlike a natural wonder or a painting, “intangible cultural heritage” designates concepts and practices like skills and festivities. But it also, interestingly, includes food. Which makes sense. After all, while food is an everyday thing, the process of making, eating, and sharing a meal isn’t all that dissimilar from a ritual.

Despite its real-world intangibility, the significance of food and the equally significant act of eating it has been cemented in a more tangible medium: film. Making food and sharing meals is one of those things that read on-screen as particularly cinematic: primed for sensuous montages and ripe for all the delicate human drama that unfolds around the dinner table.

Throughout his career, Steven Spielberg has made a real meal out of dinner table scenes. They don’t just pepper his filmography, they run through it like a vein of silver, underlining the director’s enduring concern with family and the importance of a sense of home. Consequently, the dinner table scenes in each of his films act as a consistently revealing thematic window, from the messy tables of disheveled souls to rest-stops for communal calm that solidify what’s at stake for Spielberg’s heroes.

For an in-depth look at the similarities and meaning of Spielberg’s dinner table scenes, we recommend you tuck into this compelling video essay:

Watch “Steven Spielberg: Setting the Table“:


Who made this?

Established in 1981 and focusing on arthouse films, De Filmkrant is the largest independent film magazine in the Netherlands. You can check out their official website (in Dutch) here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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