There’s a part of me that feels that where I’ve gone today is in part thanks to Steven Spielberg, because as I watch his films the way I do now there’s a line he blurs between what we can perceive as mere popcorn entertainment to something all the more beautiful. Films like Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark would have set an example for some among a few but Close Encounters of the Third Kind has only shown him at some of his most personal after having broken new ground with Jaws. If Jaws showed a side to Spielberg that blurred the lines between entertainment and art, then Close Encounters of the Third Kind presents another side of his work that embraces something all the more impactful: his own trademark sentimentality finds itself at its very best in here, it awed me at 12 years old and at 18 it still captivates me with the same impact that I can remember vividly.
Now branching out into science fiction, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind tells a story about alien encounter, with three interconnected plotlines coming into play about what it has done to the lives of such people, whether it be within curiosity or the paranoid – Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a film built around the suspicions for what is set to come as a result of the meeting with the alien. From here, it was where Steven Spielberg had developed a more sentimental side to his filmmaking, and of the many films that he has directed that have allowed this touch to run throughout the work, this is where I have always felt it worked best. It worked at its very best because of how it helps in creating a feeling of unity which is what stitches every story thread together in the best sense.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a film whose wonder is drawn upon curiosity among many things I always knew Spielberg was best at. Upon the supposed sighting of an event that has come so out of the ordinary, the running idea of curiosity is what fills such a work from people of all different sorts. But perhaps there’s another commentary that Spielberg had meant with the alien’s possible landing on the planet, because it comes out like an event akin to political turmoil: where people are united and distanced from one another based on how they interpret everything around them is happening in the world. We see many story arcs breaking apart as fragments, but ultimately find themselves set perfectly together because something is happening that’s changing the world that they know.
It’s this running thought of curiosity that finds itself escalated by how small details of everything happening only build up to something bigger. Everyone finds their lives pushed in some way as a result of discovery, but at the same time it’s what alienates people from others because of the gut feeling someone else would not carry the same interest. It can catch onto anyone at a young age, and it could be anything, and in Spielberg’s case we have aliens being the point of focus: but what is it that it means for the future of humanity? Are they peaceful, or will they bring something far more dangerous for the future? Even at the opportunity when humanity makes contact with the aliens, we still have an unclear answer but perhaps it was here in which Spielberg had established how everyone was still brought somewhere – it was within a humanistic bound he formed that made him among the best filmmakers of his sort, for the countless imitators he has inspired.
But Steven Spielberg doesn’t let the wonders stop there: in all the paranoia he still keeps everything mystifying amidst the wonderful production just from showing little. Hope still runs a common thought, but as far as his own ideas manage to spread across the board, and in a sense it almost feels so nostalgic. I remember when I watched this at a fairly young age, when I was still getting myself immersed within Spielberg’s blockbusters: but it only becomes clear why Close Encounters of the Third Kind has managed to blow me away within subsequent revisits. This whole atmosphere allows oneself to view the world around themselves almost in the way a child would, where there is still a whole lot to learn about life as they know it. And among many more reasons to be taken in, we even have a most captivating role by Cary Guffey – but there comes a greater joy highlighted from Spielberg’s casting of children in these roles. Spielberg knows his audience well, to be taken away by spectacle, and then it’s what overwhelms such characters and there comes something all the more captivating.
This may not be my favourite Steven Spielberg film, but it’s among many reasons I still owe a lot to him as I grew up, not simply as one who loved films. Within the spectacle he has presented for the screen what he has also created was a rare sort of nostalgia within his own stories, because in Close Encounters of the Third Kind he has found a more humanistic touch from something out of the extraordinary. Even with seemingly little he tells a much bigger story, one to be shared with people only desiring more about the world that they know. And it’s from here where Close Encounters of the Third Kind becomes so captivating, the world is at a point where they think they understand from outlook, and family bonds have found themselves either breaking apart or coming together: but in Spielberg’s trademark sentimentality, the awe has only made itself even clearer.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Columbia Pictures.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Steven Spielberg
Produced by Julia Phillips, Michael Phillips
Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, François Truffaut, Bob Balaban, Josef Sommer, Cary Guffey, Roberts Blossom
Release Year: 1978
Running Time: 135 minutes