This is important: the call to God in Close Encounters
One of the great things about great literature in books or on film is the fact that their creator can send messages to the audience through a variety of means, other than simply plot line or narrative.
Sometimes in the narrative, we get told significant facts we may not pick up on consciously.
One powerful means of developing an idea and elevating this to myth or symbol is by use of the repeated phrase.
Spielberg in Close Encounters, for instances, uses this technique to underline his theme of Moses going to the mountain, by having characters tell us over and over how significant the mission is.
“This is important,” is repeated several times by those seeking the Promised Land beyond Devil’s Tower.
Even the French scientist paraphrases it when speaking of the obsessions of those who come.
“They were chosen,” he says.
In the Spielberg-related “Back to the Future” trilogy, we get a similar if slightly more complicated use of the word “destiny,” which forces us to focus on the film’s theme of time and predestination. In the first film, George McFly can’t even pronounce the word and keeps confusing it with “density,” giving us perhaps a glimpse of Einstein’s concept of time being influenced by matter.
Unlike The Lord of the Rings (more the book than the movie), which uses the word “precious” as a symbol for greed and obsession with power, Spielberg’s use of the repeated phrase in Close Encounters highlights the folly of science or perhaps more accurately, the arrogance of military authority at determining what is important who should have access to the god-like creatures from outer space.
In some ways, we are getting a sermon the mount given to us through the fact that the meek, and humble of the earth have been given this task of importance rather than the self-important, self anointed figures of authority. It is no accident that the Dryfus character is selected to go with the aliens and not the parade of astronauts.
Dryfus and the others who journeyed to the mountain were all on a mission of importance.
This, of course, is a repeated theme in Spielberg movies – especially his early works such as ET where the most unlikely and least powerful are entrusted with the role of importance.
In ET we also see misguided and even dangerous authority risking a loss of connection with high beings because of some foolhardy notion that authority must have sole access to what is important – the way the priesthood in other centuries guarded the gates to heaven, allowing only those they approved to come face to face with God.
In both ET and Close Encounters, we have a sympathetic middle man, a new kind of priest, who sees the connect between God and the common man, and becomes a conduit for making the interaction happen.
In Close Encounters, of course, is drenched with religious symbolism. We see characters who are confused by their call to God, but eventually act on faith to pursue the invitation, know if not how that their mission to the mountain is truly important.