Following the success of Jaws in 1975, 1977 saw Steven Spielberg release his follow-up movie, one which would be of a much more grander, global scale than a small town terrorized by a killer shark.
On a visual level, Close Encounters of the Third Kind would be grander and mark the first of many movies that Spielberg would make in his “blockbuster era” that would see the director frame and stage scenes and visuals with a sense of wonder and magic, the same sense of wonder that he would bring to ET, Jurassic Park and then filter through a darker sense with War of the Worlds.
Retaining one of his leading men from Jaws in the shape of Richard Dreyfuss, Close Encounters was a film I first viewed at the age of nine, the same summer when Jurassic Park came out and which was one of many Spielberg movies that found themselves being shown on British television as every British television network seemingly decided to show whatever Spielberg movies they had the rights to in order to somewhat capitalise on the very big success of the famed director’s dinosaur blockbuster.
I had already seen ET, as everyone should do at a young age, or any age as it is one of the most perfect movies ever made, and upon watching Close Encounters for what I thought was the first time was expecting something similar. In fact it turned out I had seen the movie before, it was one of the many movies I had seen with my late granddad when I would visit my grandparents, and when the realisation dawned on me I could not wait to see the film’s climax again.
In many ways, a prototype for the sense of wonder and mystery that would await my teen years when Chris Carter created The X-Files, albeit with a more cynical edge, Close Encounters, although driving itself with a sense of mystery and suspense, as well as a narrative that sees the little man and woman against the government, in the end Spielberg’s sense of emotional mastery sees the film develop into something that little bit more uplifting for its epic final act.
Although the director would later say he regretted having Roy (Dreyfuss) make the decision he made because he was a father, thus making it one of many of the director’s movies to have a theme centred around parenthood, it still retains its sense of true emotional wonder at the mystery of what lies beyond our stars, the unknown of what that small light in the sky might be.
Given this is Spielberg, the ending is suitably epic and on a large-scale; its visual effects, gorgeous Vilmos Zsigmond photography and John Williams score combine together in perfect harmony to provide a movie that is pure cinema on every conceivable level. Its main theme will be stuck in your head for days, its visuals will never be forgotten, the film forever a masterpiece.
COMING SOON: “I’ll be right here.”