Film poster with pyramidal image of road leading to the light at the top.
Spielberg is in several senses, a master. His 80s films constitute part of the very essence of what it was to grow up as a child of the 80s like myself. Those of you who did have a keen sense for that 80s “feel” – a decade when it seemed simpler. Reagan was a good guy leading the free West against a godless empire of commies and atheists, while yuppies could found businesses, and Jacko burned his curls at Pepsi-funded mega-concerts. In the midst of this milder pop culture was a series of Spielberg and Lucas films, from Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Back to the Future that made the 80s even more enjoyable. I recently did an analysis of Raiders of the Lost Ark, noting the esoteric elements found within, and this time we are going to look at that late 70s (1977) gateway to the 80s that was Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
One crucial element I’ve noticed in both E.T. and Close Encounters is a deeper esoteric theme that has been overlooked in all the analyses I’ve seen so far: the nature of symbols, language and communication. This will become clearer as we progress. As the film begins, we are shown mysterious ships that appear in the desert, the French scientist and the cartographer interview an old Mongolian man who says of the UFOs that “the sun came out and sang.” There was a direct connection between the entities and music or sound, and they are directly connected with the sun. Simultaneously, across the globe in India Hindu pilgrims and yogis had gathered to sing to the entities during the daylight, “Ah yah, Ah yah ye.” This is close to the Tetragrammaton, the sacred Name of God in Scripture: Spielberg may be making a direct connection to the entities and the biblical notion of God as Lord Zbaoth, Lord of Hosts. In this instance, however, the “hosts” appear to be closer to the gods, possibly as demons or angelic. Note also that over the old man is the Star of David, a symbol that would be very familiar to Spielberg.
When the “aliens” arrive at Barry’s house, what happens is more in line with supernatural phenomena surrounding the multitudinous accounts of possession. Strange occurences like electrical disturbances and electronics going haywire mark their arrival, and it’s worth noting that the police cars, airplane and trucks go haywire, running in circles. Immediately following the Barry scene, we are shown Roy and his son doing fractions over the family train set. Roy, we notice, has this fascination with models and miniature versions of things. In symbology or semiotics (which is key to unlocking Close Encounters and E.T.), the connection of a smaller image, icon or model with the thing itself is simulacra.
In semiotics, particularly in Plato’s Sophist, simulacrum is intended to fool the viewer into thinking the copy is the real thing. The copy takes on a life of its own, yet viewed in scale it would clearly appear that the copy is not real. This is a perfect analogy for the nature of film itself, as well as the role of the director. The writer and/or film director is creating a simulacra of the real world with models and pictures, piecing and placing them together in a certain way, just as Roy does with the model train and city he has built. One may think of the simulated beings in Blade Runner or the simulated world of The Matrix here. Spielberg has mastered this art of simulation, and is presenting a simulated reality world – that of UFO-invaded America that is intended to produce a certain effect in the population. Can this be taken to a larger scale, to which Spielberg and the director himself is a “toy” of the larger, galactic forces or entities of the cosmos? Are we a Greek scale of being, being “played” and “directed” by the celestial hierarchy? Read more of this post