"This means something. This is important."

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind  / Steven Spielberg / 1977

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind / Steven Spielberg / 1977

There's a moment towards the end of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Claude Lacombe asks Roy Neary a simple question: "What do you want?".  Neary has been obsessively recreating an image implanted in his subconscious by a close encounter with unexplained phenomena.  His obsession compels him to fight for his right to experience the extraordinary.  'I just want to know that it's actually happening,' Neary replies.

Another moment sees a little boy witness something so other-worldly he abandons his home to chase after it, laughing fearlessly into the night.   I remember my first viewing of Close Encounters, how I felt utterly bereft after the film was over.  I went out into the garden of our unremarkable council house and stared up at the night sky.  I was filled with grief, put there by images from a film as incredible as they were convincing.  Is it possible to be wounded by a movie? To receive a blow to the imagination so powerful it never truly recovers?

I know what Neary means when he answers Lacombe's question.  I too want something extraordinary to happen and to know that it's real.  I'm always that child chasing after something into the starry night.  I think I'm still grieving, wounded even now by the verisimilitude of that singing ship.

Phil Gomm /  July 2017