I have always believed in aliens. How could humans live on this one planet and there not be more organisms out there? The galaxy is far too big and vast for only one species to be able to survive. I have dreamed of traveling in space. I have wished for “first contact” right in my own backyard. I love the idea that we are not alone and that there are superior beings who have come before us and after. This has always been a topic of discussion my entire life. Big, lively, all-night debates that kept my community of friends staring at the stars until all hours. How many “what-ifs” can we create in our imagination? There are unsolved mysteries everywhere. Could aliens have a hand in them? Do they walk among humans now? Oh, I could go on forever. I want to believe. I do believe. And Sci-fi movies help make it so. They churn our thoughts and questions into a possibility. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND increased my yearning for other forms of communication. When I look up, it all becomes real.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND was released in 1977. Forty-five years ago, the film still holds up in believability. It was nominated for seven Oscars and won two for Best Special Effects and Cinematography. It was written and directed by Steven Spielberg. He got the inspiration for this film from his childhood when his Dad would wake up the entire family in the middle of the night to go and look at the stars and possible comets. There was always a group of strangers around doing the same thing out in the boonies. He never forgot those moments.
CEOTTK centers around people all over the world who have witnessed strange occurrences. Whether actually seeing small spaceships appear and fly by or placing an image and a set of harmonic tones deep inside their memories, these people have been given a gift. They have been chosen, and an invitation extended to the big show at Devils Tower, Wyoming. Many will not make the connection or be able to attend due to government interference. Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) and Jillian (Melinda Dillion) are the lucky ones who don’t give up and persevere. Jillian must make the journey not only for herself but for her three-year-old son, Barry (Cary Guffey.) He was “taken” one night as he crawled out the doggie door to see the golden light up above.
Roy is an entirely different story. He is surrounded by a family who doesn’t believe he saw what he did while working late on rural Indiana’s electric power grid. It is uncomfortable to see the depth of disbelief between a married couple. Ronnie (Terri Garr) brought me to cringe-worthy tears as she belittled her husband. The mashed potato scene is a classic example of how marriages can push and pull. The humongous mud sculpture in their living room was the final straw. This part of the film bothered me more than I could say. Would I believe my partner if he sounded absolutely out of his mind? How many of us would? Steven left the ad-libbed line to stay in the finished film for some comic relief. Ronnie’s youngest daughter asked why there was a fly in the potatoes. Everyone stifled a laugh, and the scene continued. Spielberg loved it. In the end, Roy had to have a mental meltdown to get to the other side of the country. I often think about whatever happened to his family. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS leaves me with much to discuss long after it ends.
Claude Lacomb, played by Francois Truffaut, was the gentle guiding scientist behind all of the incidents across the globe. Spielberg was thrilled to have him in the movie since he was a famous, well-respected French director who did not act in films. This was his first and last time in front of the cameras. He had trouble remembering his English lines, so “cheat sheets” were hidden everywhere on stage. They even pinned another actor’s chest whenever possible and were not facing the camera. Pretty clever.
John Williams was the musical composer and conductor. He and Steven created the musical conversation between the aliens and humans first. Then Steven wrote the dialogues to fit. It gave those scenes so much more melodic power. The cinematography and lighting created a look at another world here on earth. It was spectacular. It drew audiences deep within the darkness, the fog, the puppetry, and the exhilaration of zooming through the sky. It was exactly as we all imagined first contact would be. Gentle, kind, and uplifting. Even though all the scientists were men and they all had to put on their shades at the same time. Strong images still prevailed, combining knowledge and the beginning of a new language.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND permitted audiences to look up and dream. This film challenged me. It moved and enlightened me. The memory of seeing such awe and delight when meeting children from another planet. It made me beam inside and shed joyous tears. Studios just don’t make movies like this anymore. They should. People crave having their imaginations turned up to another level. The intensity, the drama, and the comic moments are just what we need. It is a slow burn that unites our universe and beyond. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS is a brilliant classic that takes us out of our comfort zone and feeds our souls with the infinite potential of seeing our galaxy through a larger lens. I do believe it is time “for another encounter.”
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND is available to rent or buy wherever you get your movies.