Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - Film Review

fig.1 film poster

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is a 1977 film directed by Steven Spielberg that won a number of rewards and can be described as the positive outlook on intelligent life beyond Earth. With a budget of 20 million dollars the film was a financial success grossing a total of 337 million dollars worldwide. The film has left an impression on today’s media having a number of references including one in 2009’s “Monsters vs Aliens”. This can be attributed to the memorable use of sound and music that has been written by John Williams and original concept of communication through such sound.
The story follows Roy Neary, an electricity line repairman who lives a relatively ordinary life. At the beginning of the film Roy is seen with his family of 3 children and a wife. A single event changes this as he encounters a UFO. This leaves Roy with a burn on his face and is drawn to a location known as the devil’s peak. As a result of trying to make sense of the previous events he befriends a woman who together they investigate the UFO sightings further. In the end Roy ultimately leaves his life on Earth to start anew with the extra-terrestrial visitors.  
While the film is classed as a science fiction film it is easy to get lost in the sense of adventure and mystery that Spielberg provides. Strangely the film opens with a scene looking at a team of scientists who are investigating a series of events that are unexplained. The transition between the two on-going events of Roy’s life and the team may seem confusing at first but they soon being to fill each other’s gaps, fulfilling one half of each other’s story. Spielberg has the two events run alongside each other to provide enough information and mystery to draw the audience in creating questions that are explained in the film’s finale. One example of this is the use of two scenes, one of the science team playing the different sounds that make up the alien language and the other of Barry Guilder, a 3 year old boy who plays the alien tune on a glockenspiel without hearing it beforehand. As a viewer the small amounts of information provided helps to provoke questions that must be answered. Why does Roy have vivid memories of the Devils Peak? Why does Barry know the alien tune? Spielberg has directed the film in a way that retains the audience’s attention until the finale.
Continuing with the theme of adventure and mystery “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” makes use of a greater number of special effects in comparison to films beforehand. Alongside the original film Spielberg also released another version consisting of several more scenes, some of which are new and others that were not used in the first version. Probably the most notable change that has been made by Spielberg is the ending. The final resolve that is given to the audience and the one that answers all the questions made is shown in the form of a large UFO with a large city like structure contained within. The audience who have watched the film to the end are rewarded with beautiful scenes of the alien ships.

fig.2 ship outside

The protagonist in question is that of a strange nature. When looking at the story without acknowledging the extra-terrestrial factor the audience may see a man who is ignores his duties as a husband and father. Using the UFO sightings as a way to escape his life Roy’s actions can also be seen in another light. As stated by Errigo “But take away the sci-fi, the spectacular sound and light show, and what remains is compassionate, classic human drama of an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances who makes a difficult odyssey” (Errigo,A. 2009), Roy is simply find a place of belonging.
Finally, not only does the “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” take a look at intelligent life beyond Earth from a 70’s perspective but does so in a hopeful manner. Contradicting today’s expectations of aliens in media, this film presents the vistors in a calm and peaceful attitude. It plays upon the more hopeful expectations of the era with all of humanity being capable of cooperating in peace to reach out towards space. When looking at the context of the time it appears that the united goal of moving humanity into space as one may instead be a dream to aspire to. Along with the advancements that humanity has made from the 60s to the 70s conflict was an on-going issue, most notably the Cold War and the Vietnam War. It was an era of uncertainty yet the film looks beyond this in hope of peace. As a result Spielberg has created a film that has managed to captivate its audience throughout the years.

Errigo, A. (2000) “Close Encounters of the Third Kind Review”
Ebert, R. (1980) “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”
Bradshaw, P. (2016) “Close Encounters of the Third Kind review – a must-watch director's cut”

Illustration List
fig.1 film poster
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/ba/Close_Encounters_of_the_Third_Kind_(1977)_theatrical_poster.jpg (accessed 04/03/17)
fig.2 film scene
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/59iKRfdMRn0/maxresdefault.jpg (accessed 04/03/17)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Al,

    I enjoyed this review, particularly the way you put the film into the context of the way space travel was viewed in the 60s and 70s.

    Just a couple of points regarding quoting and paraphrasing; you have 3 references in your bibliography, but only one quote... are the other 2 references from where you have taken ideas from other sources, or paraphrased them? If this is the case, you need to still reference within the text too... this is the example given in the referencing guide -

    As Crane (1965:62) points out, the notion of an invisible college has been explored in the sciences.


    The notion of an invisible college has been explored in the sciences (Crane, 1972:62)

    Your bibliography also needs to be arranged in alphabetical order, by author's surname, so in your case,