On Close Encounters…

I took a break from the nightmare reinstallation from hell in order to catch the last half hour of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s weird – Simon and Mark probably weren’t even born when I last saw it.

The weirdest thing about the whole experience was seeing how many images, sounds and effects in Close Encounters have become representative of the whole alien phenomenon. There are traces of Close Encounters in pretty much every film about contact and aliens made since. Particularly weird, though, is the way it’s represented. Exactly the same music and imagery is used in Independance Day and the X-files to convey horror and anxiety, and yet in Spielberg’s original the whole thing is approached with wonder. There’s fear in there as well, of course, but the general spirit is one of awe. It makes all those bizarre claims that Spielberg’s movies are designed to educate and reassure the American public about the actual presence of aliens vaguely plausible. Extraordinary.

When I was 18 I visited the place in the desert where they filmed the movie. At the campsite opposite they show the movie every single night – projected on an screen in an outside theatre – with nothing around but desert and tents, and nothing above but clear skies and hundreds of millions of stars.