While I give Steven Spielberg plenty of flak for the turn his career has taken over the last 15 years, that in no way diminishes from his early masterpieces. I don’t know that Close Encounters of the Third Kind would be the hit today that it was back in 1977. It’s a very deliberately paced film for Spielberg, and the fascination with UFOs isn’t near today what it was even back during the heyday of The X-Files. We’ve all but shuttered the exploration of space. We’re a very inward looking species, rather than looking to the stars and thinking about what or who might be out there, and how we might talk to them were they to someday show up.
Today’s planet would almost certainly start lobbing nukes at anything it didn’t understand, and maybe 1977’s would have too, but I love Spielberg’s optimistic and beautiful take on a first encounter with extraterrestrials. Math is the universal language, and music, at its core, is math. It’s logical that would be a way to communicate, and if you have John Williams as your composer, you can have a five-minute sequence of simple notes building into a cacophony of musical dialogue that is as spellbinding as any written words could be. The five tones of initial communication are the most easily iconic thing about Close Encounters. Over 40 years after its release, this sequence is still chillingly beautiful….and then Richard Dreyfus gets on a spaceship and leaves his family behind (that part I never quite got).
2 thoughts on “My Favorite Scene: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) “Musical Conversation””
I still get happy tears watching that. 😀
Not Steve’s best movie. My favorite movie of Steve’s though. I first saw it when I was six, and since then I’ve always known I would be so, so gone if I had the chance to go up on the mother ship. I envy Dreyfus’s character so much, because I could travel to every place on Earth, and understand everything Stephen Hawking understood, and it still would not be enough. God bless Steven Spielberg.
This movie is an outlier in UFO lore. UFO lore is paranoid and creepy. If you listen to stories about abductions, they only make sense if those gray dead-eyed things are deliberately trying to confuse us, or are so fundamentally alien that the bond Spielberg built his film around would be impossible.
Whitley Streiber, the author of Communion, who claims he has been systematicaclly abducted all his life, says he has a memory of being attacked by Mr. Peanut at a parade when he was a child, and that this was a “ screen memory” masking an alien kidnapping. He really believes what he peddles. He’s nuts. He’s given into this dark world. I really, really hope and pray that Close Encounters would be a hit today, because it often feels like there is nothing but fragmentation and madness on Earth, and it keeps getting so much worse. If we could communicate with beings who evolved across a void, there would be hope.
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