Close Encounters: The Gospel According to Steven Spielberg

  • Author(s): Andrew Gordon
  • When: 1980-04
  • Where: Literature/Film Quarterly
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind has been hailed by several prestigious critics as essentially a religious film: "it's a going-to-Bethlehem story," writes Pauline Kael, and Stanley Kauffmann calls it "not so much a film as an event in the history of faith." There has always been a strain of the evangelical in science-fiction literature and film, which accounts for its occasional cult followings; after all, outer space is naturally confused with Heaven, and the sense of wonder at the heart of much science fiction and fantasy is akin to religious awe. Both science and religion are engaged in speculations about the infinite, and, stretching the definition a bit, the Bible might be called one of the world's first science-fiction stories. Unfortunately, the updated gospel according to Steven Spielberg is a purified, Disneyized version of religion: it is an un-challenging faith for the simple-hearted and the simple-minded. "It turns me on," says Spielberg, "to think that when we die we don't go to heaven but to space, to Alpha Centauri, and there we're given a laser blaster and an air-cushion car."

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