Monday, 3 April 2017

Close Encounter of the Third Kind (1977)

Fig 1: Poster.
Steven Spielberg's Close Encounter of the Third Kind (1977) is a Sci-fi, drama, adventure movie. The film tells a story about a Roy Neary, who has a close encounter, as he witnesses a UFO spaceship flying through the sky. Following, he has visions of the same mountain, but being unfamiliar tho what it is, where it is and why is he seeing it. He becomes obsessed with it, which causes damages in his marriage and family life, however he does not give up. Meanwhile, the government discovered some military planes that went missing and they start to search the clues and create a cover-up in order to safety communicate with the aliens. Roy, other witnesses and the government follow the clues till the end where they finally contact the UFOs. Roy becomes one of them and leaves the surface of the Earth in the spaceship.
Fig 2: The Mother Ship.

Spielberg's next film after Jaws was Close Encounter of the Third Kind, which was released at the same time as Star Wars, which meant the expectations from the audience were high and the competition between the two was strong. However, it was a success, as it showed the viewers something they were not used to, especially if we consider the sci-fi genre and UFO topic. As Ian Nathan states in an article "Here, in the film that forever sealed Spielberg's reputation as one of cinema's great directors, dwells something else entirely: a sense of wonder, that the unknown can reveal joy, and — akin to the overarching hope of Schindler' List — that humanity may actually have a chance of succeeding." (Nathan, 2000) What audiences were introduced very often was monster/alien vs. human, films usually shows war between species, how dangerous and murderous aliens are, that if human gets into contact with the creatures that will not end well for the person. However, Spielberg approaches UFO topic from another angle, he rather shows wonder, that aliens are not trying to kill human kind and a possibility of what could be out there, as Robert Ebert says "I thought the original film was an astonishing achievement, capturing the feeling of awe and wonder we have when considering the likelihood of life beyond the Earth." (Ebert, s.d.)
Fig 3: Roy joining the aliens.

This film leaves the audience in awe instead of fear. We do not know why the aliens are on Earth and what they want, however as the movie is nearing the end, and the humans and Mother Ship communicate through music and light, and the tiny aliens exit the spaceship, we are presented with the idea that there is no need to fear them. From the moment Roy finally realises what is happening, his face clearly displays joy and brings a sense of childishness. "As with most Spielberg films, the message is powerfully and anti-cynical. Innocence and optimism prevail — the aliens are angelic, childlike, non-threatening. And it is the innocence, Neary's inner child, that the alien beings finally choose...This is a film without bad guys, the drama constructed out of yearning and mystery not peril." (Nathan, 2000) There are no villains in the film, even as it would be expected that the aliens are evil. At first the scientists and government might seem like they will be the bad guys, but at the end they turned out to be just as confused and curious as Roy.
Fig 4: French scientist.

It is said that this film was a very personal of Spielberg, but later on he confirmed that he would change the ending (after he had his own family). As we see, there are multiple times where Roy's wife and children are troubling and quite annoying. At the end of the movie, Roy freely leaves Earth, which also means his leaving his family behind without any care. The director's worry about family is clear, based on the fact of how the married couple behaves, how the children are uncontrollable and how easily Roy leaves them.As said in an article "It is the first Spielberg film to truly encompass his preoccupations: children, family, suburbia, and the emotionally abandoned." (Nathan, 2000)
Fig 5: Roy, his wife and one of his children.


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