Tuesday, 23 February 2016

"Close Encounters of the third kind" (1977) - A review.

Fig 1.

“Close encounters of the third kind” (1977) directed by Steven Spielberg recalls a spate of UFO sightings in Indiana. Centering on the everyman, Roy, and a single mother, Jillian, as they try to make sense of events after witnessing strange craft in the night sky. Their lives - once centered on their family quickly gets shafted for their quest for knowledge, and Jillian’s son, Barry.  

Fig 2. 
Again, as with Spielberg’s previous affairs, Jaws (1975) and Duel (1971), the narrative of masculinity and the role of a man, is explored. We are presented early on, within the doldrum of Roy’s life; reduced to a monotonous, and almost typically portrayed, family existence, wherein he seems as if going through the motions. We see Roy, struggling to live out his childhood vicariously through his children when attempting to show them Pinocchio, and in a particularly telling moment we hear his music box play “When you wish upon a star”, enforcing this idea of Roy as the dreamer, and an unfulfilled one at that. . Britt Hayes, writing for Birth. Movies. Death, states “he doesn't have a bad life, nor is it a particularly charmed existence, but he is stuck the way most of us are stuck in our daily habits, relying on that which has become second nature as if we're floating through the days on autopilot.” (Hayes, 2015) Indeed, once Roy has seen the alien craft and become obsessed with the shape/mountain, his pursuit almost treads on a certain romanticism with adventure. His excitement, and passions ignite at the sight of the craft, which serve as the vehicle in which the plot is driven forward. Yet, almost unsympathetically, Roy leaves his/is left by his family whilst on his quest for understanding. Spielberg is shows honesty in his portrayal of the modern family, and also in the portrayal of a genuine reaction to preternatural events; Hayes goes on to state, “It's a feeling that has no word to describe it nor definition. So much of Close Encounters of the Third Kind is about actual feeling and genuine response, forgoing the usual plot patterns and generic representations of how human beings should respond.” (Hayes, 2015). Continually, it seems, Close Encounters does the opposite of what is expected. Our two characters, instead of crumbling at the loss of family, band together in their own ad-hoc family, forged by spectacular events. And in many ways, this opposite action, the going against of the expected typifies Close Encounters of the third kind.

The idea of broken families stems from this, but Close Encounters curtails this by being almost redemptive in its ending, when Roy joins a new family. His reward for following his dreams, admittedly at the exclusion of his blood family.  Writing for Rogerebert.com, Jim Emerson suggests that by the end...“Roy and Elliott to [re-]discover the meaning of "family" (and "empathy").” (Emerson, 2010)

Fig 3. 

Stylistically, Spielberg utilises skills shown in previous efforts to maintain a certain level of tension throughout the movie, in some parts actually framing scenes within the tropes of horror, this is best seen when Barry is taken from Jullien. There’s a deliberacy in the pacing of this scene that suggests imminent horror, and indeed the very act of her son being effectively stolen from her is a harrowing ordeal. Which is why the ending is perhaps so effective, for it flips the expectation that these alien beings will start killing and destroying things. It’s an almost non-payoff payoff, where instead of an orgy of death and destruction, we find that the aliens are somewhat like us. It’s almost disappointing in a superficial way, but the more it is ruminated upon the more powerful an ending it seems.


Hayes, Britt. “CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND Remains Singularly Strange And Genuine” Birthmoviesdeath.com [online] Available at: http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2015/09/17/close-encounters-of-the-third-kind-remains-singularly-strange-and-genuine [Accessed 23/2/2016]

Emerson, Jim. “MAKING CONTACT: SPIELBERG'S CLOSE ENCOUNTERS AND E.T.” rogerebert.com [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/scanners/making-contact-spielbergs-close-encounters-and-et [Accessed 23/2/2016]


Fig 1. Close Encounters of the third kind poster [image] Available at: http://cdn.fontmeme.com/images/close-encounters-of-the-third-kind-poster.jpg

Fig 2. Roy looks up [image] Available at: http://www.themoviescene.co.uk/reviews/_img/4863-2.jpg

Fig 3. Roy’s new family [image] Available at: http://www.daviddarling.info/images/Close_Encounters_of_the_Third_Kind.jpg

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