• Film reviews

    #7 – Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

    Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

    Film review #7

    dir. Steven Spielberg

    1977’s “other” sci-fi movie is the film of choice this week. The title of “other” is solely due to 1977 being the year that a little sci-fi movie called Star Wars was also released…

    As in Contact, the film deals with the possibilities of first contact with extraterrestrials. In parallel to this, it also deals with the impact on the lives of people caught in the middle, having received a message from the aliens.

    Imagining contact with aliens is imagined in many different ways, and in Close Encounters… it is probably the highlight of the film. The use of sound and light is quite spectacular, using bright beams of colour-coded light, and playing musical notes to communicate is something that would be a real possibility in the future should we ever have to communicate with aliens. The idea of mathematics being the only “universal language” is something that should be remembered. Combined with the use of sound, it really accentuates the relationship between music and mathematics.

    The inclusion of a church/prayer scene just before the volunteers go aboard the UFO is of significance. Again, like Contact, religion and science mixing seems like a dangerous and messy thing to do, but if one is going to choose people to represent humanity to extraterrestrials, shouldn’t they represent the ~90% of people on the planet who believe in a religion?

    Being a big budget movie by Steven Spielberg, the special effects and locations are grand in scale and don’t disappoint. The music being composed by John Williams as well is interesting, seeing as he composed the music for Star Wars the very same year. Two different science-fiction films produced two different soundtracks.

    The main difference between Close Encounters… and films like Contact is the fact that Close Encounters… actually shows the aliens in the flesh. Rather controversial, since there is no way to imagine what aliens will look like…but the film is not a scientific simulation, it is a drama and a mystery, and perhaps having a resolution helps complete the story in a more traditional sense. The aliens are only seen with light shining from behind them, and subsequently darkening the features of the alien. It is important to note the short, skinny and silver figure of the alien is seemingly based on the various U.F.O. sightings and close encounters people have reported over the years, so it builds on the real-life accounts and takes them one step further.

    There are still many questions at the end with regards to the aliens, how they got to Earth, what they are like etc. since the mothership only appears during the last 10 or so minutes. But since this a first contact situation, merely establishing a means of communication would be extensively difficult, and it would take a long time before meaningful dialogue would take place between two species. I think a line in the film sums it up perfectly:

    “It’s like the first day of school…”