I'm 28 years old and I've finally seen Close Encounters. I have honestly no idea how the Spielberg pre-2000 era has been a part of my film culture since I was a child, yet this film has managed to escape my radar. I guess I just took that era for granted.
As I watched the film, I immediately felt Close Encounters was one of those films that make a deep imprint on a child's imagination. I could express regret over missing it, but that realization means that child in me is still there, and more importantly, this 43-year-old story still manages to reach it effectively. Why?
The thing is that what struck me the most with Close Encounters is how incredibly low-key it plays everything, in any standard, late 70s or now. There is little exposition made, no motivations clearly expressed. Most of the time in other movies, there's always some kind of effort being made to be sure the viewer is following and understands what's going on - even in other Spielberg productions. What is happening, why is it happening. But not in Close Encounters. There's a sense that you're just following along, trying to piece together something that is not particularly worded out for you, like the viewer is out of the picture, and the characters are doing their thing without stopping to explain it. A story not tailored, more akin to a documentary as one of the guys says in the commentary. There are no answers given, but the film is not lacking them, because it doesn't set up things that it doesn't pay off. It just shows.
But it's fairly easy to write a story that doesn't explain, even though it's also incredibly hard to manage to go somewhere with it. The difference is Close Encounters plays the same game with all of its aspects. Although it's difficult to distinguish conscious decisions from technical limitations, the visuals blur the precision of what they're doing and bring out an otherworldly quality to the encounters. The sound design plays a huge part in that, because the ships are actually pretty silent. The beams of lights they emit on the road when Roy is stuck at the railroad crossing are silent.
Because the truth is, Close Encounters is not a film meant to be intellectualized, but felt. There's a dream-like quality to it, and you're led through it emotionally, quite notably even in a medium that's usually used for that. Every aspect of it is about sensation. All those aspects are not trying to describe a reality that could be, they're walking you through a dream. And you don't think a dream, you feel it.
I think very few works in cinema do this, and even less doing it well. Close Encounters is not a film, it's a tale.
Last edited by Saniss (2020-01-13 16:12:10)