Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg, who also wrote the screenplay; it was released in 1977. Spielberg based the story in part on reports of UFO investigations, and the scientist played by François Truffaut is based on the real-life UFO researcher Jacques Vallée. What struck Spielberg most about these reports was their consistency in describing the aliens as childlike and friendly, both points emphasized in the film. The technical advisor was J. Allen Hynek, astronomical consultant with Project Blue Book, who made a cameo appearance.
The plot focuses on an ordinary American man, played by Richard Dreyfuss, who is touched by a light beam from an alien spacecraft. The beam generated within him an obsession with a shape he later discovers to be Devil's Tower in Wyoming, the alien's appointed landing place. Much of the ensuing story depicts the hero's efforts to learn the meaning of his vision and then, along with the mother of a boy who has been taken away by aliens, to penetrate government secrecy and ascend the mountain to the landing site.
Interesting parallels between the film and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress have been drawn by English-born physicist Paul Davies:2
Spielberg's aliens ... appeared in a halo of bright light and possessed a serene, other-wordly quality reminiscent of biblical encounters with angels. Much of the imagery ... was Bunyanesque, especially near the final scene when the alien mothercraft appears in the sky, awesome, brilliantly illuminated and suggestive of [the] Celestial City. Throughout the story the aliens set the agenda, and privileged humans were drawn psychically and with religious, pilgrim-like fervor towards the all-important encounter after many trials, tribulations and doubts.
The release of Close Encounters coincided with a new wave of UFO sightings and public interest which filtered up through official circles. This culminated in a debate by the United Nations General Assembly special political committee, in which there was a call by Grenada's delegate (unsuccessful as it turned out) for an international agency to study the phenomenon.