• Daniel Rae

Close Encounters of the Third Kind Review

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind", EMI Films, 1977

One of the more interesting sci-fi films I've seen in recent memory, playing off the genre's core ideas and motifs as well as unveiling a true sense of darkness that I've not seen Spielberg implement before.

What I find to be the most compelling element to this film is the balance between the usual sense of wonder/other-worldliness that highlights the importance of the shared experience and the unique approach towards the treatment that brilliantly manages to tie back a sense of true humanity in an observational and intriguing way. The identification the audience latch on to with the "everyman" (Dreyfuss' Roy) is wonderfully realised, characterised by his job that makes him an active part of the community that is stripped away from him following his sometimes-disturbing infatuation with the alien arrival. Under Spielberg careful direction, his wide-eyed charisma is equal-part cartoonish and ruggedly human, presenting audiences with a surprisingly-complex yet grounded look into how the identity of the "everyman" is shaped. Perhaps influenced by the casting and involvement of Jean Luc Godard, the theme of language and communication that frames the power of wisdom and knowledge and the internal struggle to achieve that is presented in a satisfying and stylistically varied way, from dusty colour palettes to horror-inspired dramatic lighting which provides signifies key plotpoints that take unique tonal shifts. How the audience is positioned is also something that I think Spielberg and his team have more of a focus on than his other renowned works. Often portrayed through wide angles or compositions of mise en scene that underpin a sense of spectrum and scale, there is a blurry line between what spectators are encouraged and not encouraged to side with in terms of ideology, usually revolving around the conflict between individual and national security.

Nevertheless, whilst I can appreciate the lengths Spielberg took towards the breakdown of the modern family that the screenplay follows, I feel the sense of pacing that holds this together to be somewhat underbaked and not as realised as the attention to detail that is put into the sequences as individual pieces to a puzzle. A lack of fluidity between the storylines between Roy, Jilian and the bureau, whilst perhaps a creative decision used to underline the systemic breakdown of societal harmony that the aliens cause, occasionally breaks down the flowing sense of rhythm of the cause-and-effect style of narrative structure.

Overall, this is an intriguing and self-reflective look at science fiction that examines the scenario of the potential breakdown of the world on a psychological and human level, which is sometimes undercut by the jagged points of focus that the story looks at.

4/5 Stars

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