Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Article 3207 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-30-2010
Posting Date: 5-26-2010
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Featuring Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr
Country: USA
What it is: Alien contact story

When a lineman encounters a UFO, he becomes obsessed with a shape that will lead him to the meaning of his experience.

This beloved UFO movie appears on a lot of people’s best ten lists for science fiction movies. There’s no doubt that in many ways it is a brilliant movie. Spielberg has a truly profound understanding of film language, and the way he has of telling a story and imparting information is wondrous. He also has the ability to come up with some truly impressive crowd scenes. The sense of mystery is strong here, and we feel for the various characters as they try to deal with their lives after their encounters. In many ways, this is a stunning movie.

Yet I resist the movie a little; for some reason, I’m a little disappointed with the ending. This may seem like a ridiculous statement; the ending is a masterpiece of special effects technology at the very least. But for me, the ending lacks a certain emotional resonance that I was hoping for. After doing a lot of thinking about it, I decided the problem is that the ending is a little too heavy on the “awe” end of the scale; in my mind, an encounter with aliens from outer space would have a more complex set of reactions than this. The rest of the movie has touches of fear and paranoia that seem to vanish at the end, and I don’t think they should vanish. Which is not to say that the movie should have a darker ending; I’m just saying that the existence and acknowledgment of that darkness would go a ways toward making the end of the movie a more complete experience.

Nevertheless, I must admit that I found this less of a problem this time than with my previous two viewings of the movie. Spielberg’s vision is breathtaking, and there are new things to be observed on each re-viewing. Whatever its flaws, the movie is a rich experience.

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