Sunday, 20 March 2016

I've Just Seen: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Few aliens come in such peace as those in Spielberg's film. Instead of representing fear of the other, they are a huge source of fascination, communicating with humans through light, music and images - art, not war. This idea is enhanced by the presence of Francois Truffaut as Claude Lacombe, a scientist trying to unravel the mystery of all these events. Truffaut's approach to film was to view it as art that can bamboozle its audience as much as it can entertain, and his films ask the audience to participate. The aliens do this too, drawing Roy Neary and Jillian Guiler to them through a maddening single image of a distinctive structure, an image they use art (painting, sculpture with food and rubbish) to work out.

Family has been at the heart of many a Spielberg film, and it is no different here, but it is not all peace and harmony. Roy's obsession drives his family from him, and Jillian is separated from her son, an event that fuels her desire to encounter these aliens. It is interesting to note that Spielberg has said that if he remade this film now he would change the ending for Roy's story.

I really liked this, particularly the beauty of the visual effects, and the sustaining of the story's mystery. Spielberg and editor Michael Kahn take their time in the third act, spending time with the aliens, with a delightful scene of talking with music. Coming after the action/ horror of Jaws, this film shows the breadth of Spielberg's skill. 


  1. I never get tired of this one. There is a human element to it that is so often missing in sci-fi and a mystery that is not resolved, but just elevated to a higher level in the resolution. I feel like an old fart saying that but they just don't make pictures like this any more.
    Btw. I just got confirmed I am going to Melbourne in May, so hooray I will be visiting your part of the world.

    1. Completely agree about the mystery not being solved; Spielberg just lets it sit with the audience.

      Oh, nice about Melbourne! Though I am afraid I am no help on places to see; I've never been there myself. Still, it should be good weather at that time of year.