Saturday, 20 February 2016

Cutting Edges: Close Encounters of the Third Kind Film Review

Fig 1: Film poster

After the success of “Jaws” (1975) came Steven Spielberg’s next big hit: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977). Released near the end of the seventies, a period where cinema really showed it’s true potential with the use of modern special effects (such as the release of “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977) and “Superman” (1978)) it can be said that the effects still look good to this day. With peoples homes cut off from power with the initial presence of small but ultra brightly coloured UFO’s and drenching them in  wash of orange light, the unearthly appearance of the UFO’s are greatly portrayed.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is not your typical alien movie – perhaps now, in this modern day, audiences are used to seeing alien life forms target Earth for attack, are supremely powerful and can overthrow the human race, however Spielberg created a movie that is totally the opposite. The citizens are mesmerized and somewhat calm about the appearance of the UFO’s, and likewise the alien lifeforms seem to study their areas and communicate to the humans. Roger Ebert describes how Spielberg is: “capturing the feeling of awe and wonder we have when considering the likelihood of life beyond Earth” (Ebert, 1980). 

Fig 2: Lights

What is interesting are the two characters, Roy (Fig 3) and Jillian (Fig 2) who both witness the UFO’s become obsessed. Roy has visions of a mountain and tries to sculpt it out of mashed potato, and then out of clay. Angie Errigo states: “When his encounter with a UFO is dismissed he becomes obsessed, to the exclusion of his family, with discovering what his experience means” (Errigo, 2000). Similarly, Jillian draws images of the mountain, with her artwork she is: “aware that there is some connection between her artwork and the opportunity to be re-united with her son”(Bernardinelli, S.D) Jillian and Roy then go on a road trip after Roy's family leaves him, in order to indulge in their obsessions and find out more. 

Fig 3: In awe

Adding to the light hearted and almost kindness of the alien spacecraft, it is reported that it makes a distinctive sound: A five-tone musical phrase in a major scale. On the ground, the people re create this sound in order to communicate with the enormous mother ship, which is successful, and the audience can see the glee of the workers and staff members.

Fig 4: The mother ship

When the mother ship opens, the audience is expecting some kind of alien to appear, however surprisingly, dozens of adults and children who were missing emerge, all from different eras of the past, and strangely, none have aged after their abduction. Jillian's curious son, Barry (Fig 2), is also returned.
Once the aliens do show themselves, they have a somewhat generic appearance, however for the audience during the time of the films release, it would’ve been intriguing. Scientist Claude Lacombe uses the Curwn hand signs that represent the five toned alien sound, and the alien replies with the same gesture, and smiles. The gentle nature of the aliens is both unique and heart warming.

Fig 5: The aliens

A spectacular ending shows Roy entering the ship and witnessing the smaller UFO’s gathering above him and looking in awe of the alien technology. In the original film, this scene was not available, but even so this proves to be an impactful ending and satisfactory to the audience who long to see the interior. As Roger Ebert describes: “It adds another dimension to the already impressive ending of the first version” (Ebert, 1980)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is not an experience to be missed. 


Bernardinelli, J. (S.D) reelviews (Accessed on 20/02/16)