Monday, December 10, 2012

The Cinema of Steven Spielberg (2): Behind the Images

If the first part of Steven Spielberg’s career can be summarize by a general movement toward the lights in the sky, like Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, from the 90’s and forward his cinema is exemplified by characters trying to flee artifices that have become dangerous: now, they have to get out of Jurassic Park’s island.

I wouldn't follow those lights...

This change of course came gradually: it was clearly in effect in Jurassic Park (1993), the second major stepping stone in Spielberg’s cinema after CEot3K, but it was first introduced at the end of Always (1989), where Richard Dreyfuss (Pete) has to learn the responsibilities he eschewed as Roy Neary. Dorinda (Holy Hunter) is constantly trying to keep her aviator lover (Dreyfuss) on the ground, or at least to stop his dangerous behavior. “You’re not a movie hero” she says to him at one point, “you’re not saving any life here”, so no need to seek these narcissistic adrenaline thrills because you got some responsibilities, here with me. Or, if you will, no need for this pure entertainment, or to revel in your own technical virtuosity: cinema has a duty towards reality, and images should not be used to escape from or to hide the real world (as Jaws already implied). In the last sequence of Always, Dorinda’s plane crashes in a lake where she lets herself drown, hoping to leave a reality she doesn’t want to participate in anymore. This time, Dreyfuss (remember he’s Spielberg’s alter ego) takes her hand and brings her back on the ground, back to her earthly responsibilities, thus correcting his own decision at the end of CEot3K. This time, we need to stay with our two feet on the ground, not in the sky or at the bottom of a lake. And if it wasn’t clear enough, when Pete and Dorinda are walking together in one of the last shot, we distinctly hear in the music the characteristic notes used in CEot3K to communicate with the aliens.