Steven Spielberg is one of the most iconic names in the last forty years of film. He has produced and directed multitudes of movies aimed at a variety of audiences. Perhaps one of his most famous works is Close Encounters of the Third Kind from 1977. This film is a story of humans’ wonder and amazement at beings that are not of Earth.
An eerie and strange tone sets the pace for this mysterious sci-fi psychological thriller right as it begins. There is complete silence in the opening credits, which gives way to a bizarre music theme that recurs throughout the film. This music goes hand-in-hand with the storyline, as we see very unusual occurrences taking place all overthe world. The government is bewildered by their investigations, as they find artifacts that have been missing for over twenty years that appear to be brand new. There are sightings of glowing lights and floating objects in the skies, accompanied by erratic electrical and mechanical malfunctions. Entire cities lose power as these flying lights pass over the areas. The audience is introduced to the main characters as we see a special connection between certain people and the UFOs. One of these individuals happens to be a four-year-old boy named Barry Guiler (Cary Guffey). He is captivated by these mysterious flying ships, and finds himself drawn to them. His mother, Jillian (Melinda Dillion), has absolutely no idea what is going on with her son. Another person with this same attachment is a middle-aged father and electriciannamed Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss). Roy comes into contact with the Guilers by chance during the exciting events surrounding the UFOs. The focus of the film is the process of unraveling the mystery behind why these people are linked with the extra-terrestrials.
A specific similarity thatBarry and Roy share in their association with the aliens is a vision of a mountainous shape. Neither one of them understand its significance, but they both are enchanted and obsessed with this mountain. Jillian works to put the puzzle together as well. This is a clear representation of a Man vs. The Unknown character conflict. Soon, Barry is abducted by one of the UFOs, bringing his mother great grief. The authorities do not believe Jillian when she gives her account of the events. Roy becomes increasingly mentally unstable as he searches for the meaning of the mountain that he visualizes. His own family believes that he has gone insane, packing up and leaving him. Roy and Jillian are both facing other people who find them to be crazed and deranged. These cases are an example of a Man vs. Society conflict. Roy and Jillian face internal strife as well, an illustration of Man vs. Himself. Should they follow their instincts, and what they know to be true, or accept what others are telling them?
Although Roy and Jillian had met earlier, they are unaware of their shared struggles. Soon, fate would bring them together. As they watch the news in separate locations, they see an image of the mountain that has been so puzzling to them. Supposedly, the region surrounding the mountain of Devil’s Tower, Wyoming is being evacuated due to a deadly chemical spill. Roy and Jillian know that this is a government cover-up, and separately make their way to that location. They happen upon each other, and, working together, they discover the implications of the mountain and the evacuation. Secret branches of the government have been doing research regarding the other-worldly entities and how to possibly communicate with them. The key proved to be a pattern of musical tones. Through this pattern, the aliens had relayed the geographical coordinates of Devil’s Tower. A communication base was established, with the world’s leading experts on these sensitive matters. Music plays an absolutely phenomenal role in this film. Obviously, its status as a correspondence method with the aliens is very significant. However, the musical score by John Williams is just as crucial to the emotional impact of the movie. The curious and mystical music theme that appears with the alien ships strikes a chord with the audience. A masterful incorporation of silence and ambient sounds accompany these scenes as well. At first, the audience gets exclusive treatment with the unique music. Yet, a few seconds later, they find themselves immersed in the movie with the characters themselves. The audience is hearing what the fictional figures are hearing, and experiencing some of the same emotions as well. Steven Spielberg’s ability to connect the audience psychologically with his films is remarkable.
While stories of aliens and extra-terrestrial beings are not uncommon, the way in which they are portrayed in this film certainly is different. As Roy and Jillian come across the secret base and communication operation, the mothership of the aliens arrives. However, instead of an epic battle and mass destruction, the audience is shown a touching display of peace and community between the humans and other-worldly visitors. The musical communication leads to physical, face-to-face contact. The aliens return many human individuals that they have collected over the years, providing an explanation for an abundance of missing persons cases. Interestingly enough, these people have not aged at all in the many years aboard the alien craft. Young Barry Guiler is reunited with his mother, much to her delight. There was nothing malevolent about the intentions of the aliens. They only sought to learn more about humans and their technology. No harm was inflicted by the aliens upon their guests during their studies. As a show of respect, after the missing crowd of people is returned, the aliens finally reveal themselves in the flesh. They stand outside in the open for a good length of time, allowing the humans to process what they are seeing. Overall, their message is one of friendship and unity. Soon, they once again board their ship and depart, with Roy joining them. His special connection with them was finally going to be fulfilled. He would learn about them, and they would provide him with knowledge of their race in return.
This story was very intriguing, but I think seeing it through the eyes of Roy, Jillian, and Barry was what made the film such a success. Not every character was linked with the aliens like these three were. Had the audience not been told the story through their perspectives, then it would not have been nearly as profound. I was very pleased to see a film of cooperation between humans and aliens. Steven Spielberg has been involved with many other stories revolving around extra-terrestrials, with various portrayals of their traits and characteristics. While this was not a film with non-stop action and explosions in every other scene, it was dramatic, mysterious, and meaningful. It did not go with the grain of traditional alien movies, and I truly appreciated that. All of these positive qualities are enough for this film to earn a solid “A” grade from yours truly.
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