Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977 USA)

adlAs realistic as it could be, this film transcends the usual alien picture because it portrays the unbelievable as totally realistic and what one wouldn’t expect – intelligent life is just that – intelligent, and accepting, of our world and universe. The images in this film light up the screen and make you feel like you are living a dream, with flurry images of light, making one feel warm and gentle. This is escapism that is refreshingly non-violent.

The locations are great too, as they go from Mongolian deserts, to farmlands, to the famous “Devil’s Tower” in Wyoming, where the main magic happens. A long lost ship turns up in the middle of the Gobi Desert; and in Dharmsala, Northern India, hundreds of people are gathered together, singing–a short `tune’ that consists of a mere five notes, over and over, repeatedly. When they are asked where they heard this tune, the throng, as one, dramatically thrust their hands into the air and point to the sky. And, indeed, in the skies all around the world, strange things are happening. Several missing aircraft from World War 2 turn up over 30 years after they were reported lost. More baffling still is the fact that they vanished over Florida but have turned up, in pristine condition and without pilots, in the middle of Mexico.

ceottkOther weird things happen: an aeroplane pilot reports a near collision with a brightly lit spacecraft – a Navy warship missing for decades is found in the desert: thousands of Indians report a light in the sky which “sang” to them. And across America there are scores of inexplicable UFO sightings. Electrician Roy Neary, (Richard Dreyfuss) is a normal family man who sees one of the UFOs. Soon after he is tormented by a vision apparently implanted in his mind by the aliens. His torment becomes obsession as he tries to figure out the meaning of a hill-like shape that has become embedded in his mind. As his marriage collapses, he tries to find answers and is finally gratified when he discovers that the picture in his head is trying to tell him where to go in order to witness an extra terrestrial landing.

Close-Encounters-of-the-Third-Kind-LB2-1Arguably the most famous filmmaker since Hitchcock in terms of public recognition, Spielberg adds a schmaltzy layer to most of his films that set his projects apart from the work of other directors. Non-Americans like me have to endure American apple pie family scenes and my god it’s an endurance! I really fail to connect with Dreyfuss’ family and do not care what happens to them. Roy’s evolution is too fast – in a matter of what seem to be few days he has turned into a complete loon, and because of Spielberg’s lack of character arc, the sudden change is startling and – worst of all – cold. We lose all sense of empathy for Roy, primarily because we do not experience his pain – we see him suffering, sure, and moping around like a “cry baby,” as his son names him. He abandons his family and even takes up with a new woman during his search for extra – terrestrial life. This is quite a moral low for Spielberg.

close-encounters-of-the-third-kind-devils-towerA group of UN scientists led by French researcher Claude Lacombe (famous French filmmaker François Truffaut, in his only Hollywood actor role) discovers Flight 19 (a fleet which disappeared in the infamous Bermuda Triangle area) in the Mexico desert, and a large cargo ship in the Gobi Desert. Lacombe and the scientists discover that aliens could land near Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Spielberg wisely shows the aliens only when the film’s almost over. And when he does, he shows a never-seen-before portray of the ‘visitors’, which is far away from the bug-eyed monsters of the famous sci-fi 1950s movies. He develops special effects to create wonder and astonishment instead of laughable horror. The spaceships are beautiful and the child-like aliens are so wonderful, we could hug them. I also loved the scenes when inanimate objects begin to move by themselves in an uncontrollable way – such as Barry’s toys, the mailboxes and especially the horrific sequence in Jillian’s house that gives an impression that we’re watching a ‘house-comes-alive’-style of motion picture.





  1. I’ve always preferred “ET- The Extraterrestrial” to this one, just because it’s much more fun, but anything Speilberg does is worthy of attention. Good review.


  2. Thank you, Gary. It is hard to choose what to review sometimes. I went for this one because of the special effects and locations, but I agree its not as enjoyable as “ET”.


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