Forty years old. I had a chance to go to the theater and see Steven Spielberg’s classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the big screen. It is a wonderful science fiction story, even though Spielberg himself in an interview that proceeded the movie claimed that it was not a Sci-fi film.
Line worker Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) was involved with a shocking encounter with a UFO one night and he found that his entire life had changed. He became obsessed with the sighting and was determined to recreate the moment. Despite the pleas of his wife Ronnie (Teri Garr), Roy seemingly was slipping deeper and deeper into the world of madness.
Roy was not the only one. Jill (Melinda Dillon) and her son Barry (Cary Guffey) also wound up having the same encounter, and Barry soon disappears. Jill’s cries of alien abduction were seen as a potential cover story, but she was just as obsessed with finding her son.
The visions of the Devil’s Tower tormented both individuals, to the point where Roy’s wife and three children were fleeing from him in fear, not for their safety, but to avoid his apparent insanity.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a beautiful movie with amazing visuals. Honestly, this is the main driving force for the film, because the story itself was really pretty cruel. Roy’s basic choice of the UFO over his own family is a dangling thread that is never fully dealt with in the movie.
There is also no reason given for the aliens to be doing what they are doing. They are abducting people, but they seem to be friendly and like to play music.
And what music. EYG Hall of Famer John Williams does tremendous work here, creating such a musical backdrop that rivaled the visual imagery on the screen.
I have to say though, I am still wondering about the fate of the children left behind and deserted by their father. I thought Brad (Shawn Bishop) was especially compelling in his performance seeing his dad lose it and understanding what that meant more than his younger siblings. What would happen to this boy? How would this situation affect him? It is a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my head, and this is one of the reasons why Close Encounters does not translate as well to today’s world…at least in that area.
The rest of the film was wonderful and beautifully done. The special effects for 1977 were amazing and they still hold up today in the world of CGI. This is one of Spielberg’s great films and most of it truly deserves that credit.