Once upon a time there was an alien, a girl and a film director who wanted to change the world

Forty years ago, the image of a child who rose into the air with a bicycle, carrying an inexplicable creature in the basket, changed the world. It is one of the best-known frames in cinema and also a celebration of the magic of cinema. Between both things, Steven Spielberg filmed a generational classic that still moves and dazzles. We tell you what it does ET The extraterrestrial one of the most important films in history.

In an interview for American Cinematographer, Steven Spielberg said that the first time he imagined the film ET The extraterrestrial, it was in a short image. He wasn’t sure what the creature would look like, though he already had some sketches thanks to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But yes, that he would be friends with a little boy. And that both “would do the impossible.” That together, they would take a bicycle — that all-American symbol of youth — and fly. “Flying, that was the first thing I saw,” Spielberg said, of that first great vision of what would become his most famous film. “Both would get off the ground and to escape danger, pedaling hard.”

The scene, of course, became one of the most recognizable frames in cinema. Also, on the label of Spielberg’s own production house, Amblin. But beyond that, in the symbol of a whole new way of taking on science fiction cinema. To execute something more powerful than the simple idea for a cinematographic work. “I wanted to show that we can all be moved,” he told Variety. “And that good is not exclusive to the human race.” ET The extraterrestrial It is a look at childhood, a film free from cynicism, interested in moving people through the amazing. Spielberg, who had made a name for himself with Shark and had his first failure with 1941tried something new with the story of a space visitor.

ET The extraterrestrial it was a modern fairy tale. Constructed as a profound allegory about differences and unconditional friendship. Spielberg created a fantasy adventure that is simple, but also deeply meaningful. A metaphor about the little pains of childhood, the mystery, the pain and the great adventures of childhood. A merit that allowed him to reconstruct the way in which adventure films, fantasy and emotional closeness are assumed. Especially when science fiction was still considered a minor genre in the early 1980s. And one that had little to do with the idea of ​​a type of cinema destined to surprise and connect with the public in various ways.

Flying a bicycle, a space refugee and the beauty of innocence

ET The extraterrestrial It was a modest project, much smaller and more personal than any of the director’s. Already converted into one of the most representative figures of a Hollywood in the midst of a revolution, Spielberg wanted to innovate. And his story about a space creature that takes refuge in the house of a group of children, was the quintessence of innocence. But also, it was the most personal story of him. The one that summed up his concerns and the wonder he felt about the ability of cinema to dialogue with emotion.

“We are all inspired. I get inspired all the time, but my (real) inspirations are the sum of all my parts. And all my parts started in 1947 when I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. I accumulated the dust or pollen of my experience until ET ”he told the American Cinematographer. “I imagined what I and my group of friends would have done with an alien.” For the occasion, Spielberg dismissed the idea of ​​technological wonder or danger. “ET is a child who finds children. He is a good-natured creature who finds a gang of do-gooders.”

Maybe for that reason, ET The extraterrestrial endures, it is assumed as part of popular culture. The film translates the need to assume the emotional as part of an irrational but irreplaceable dimension of the collective mind. But also, it is a fantasy on a grand scale, an impossible dream of generations. “My parents imagined monsters in the forest, I imagined an alien,” Spielberg said. For the director, who had already brought curiosity about the mysteries of space to apotheosis, going back to small was disconcerting. “With Close Encounters of the Third Kind, everything was formidable” he explained. “But with ET The extraterrestrial everything was small. Everything was tiny, a secret.”

Spielberg worked with a team that envisioned the suburbs of his childhood as an endearing, ramshackle setting. Also, with a cast of children who had to embody the tenderness of a time alien to fear. Henry Thomas was cast as Elliot, the protector of the titular ET because of his “joy.” But it was the selection of a very young Drew Barrymore that gave the exact tone of the work. “She didn’t know she wasn’t real,” Spielberg said of ET, “so her fear and her love were genuine.”

The first shot to be filmed was Gertie’s (Barrymore) encounter with ET in the closet. And that scream, the wide eyes, the utter naivete of the scene, became essential to understanding the impact of the film. “I got a chill watching the entire sequence, because I knew we were creating history,” said Allen Daviau, director of cinematography on the film.

Once upon a time there was an alien looking for a home

ET The extraterrestrial it is a game of cultural mirrors that reflects that essential innocence, a tiny epic that moved in an unprecedented phenomenon. It’s not just that Spielberg constructed a modern fable out of his own symbols and mythology. He also elaborated a manifesto of pure, essential ideas, within a cinematographic age still without definition. Spielberg, along with George Lucas, not only knew how to recreate that perspective of a new world yet to be built, but also endowed it with extraordinary beauty. Of an emotion that is still intact four decades after its premiere.

It is a film as an emotional experience. It is from the first scenes: a masterful play of shadows and lights in the midst of a disturbing perception of fantasy. And also, at its end, in which tenderness becomes a means of communication and language. ET The extraterrestrial It is a character film that preserves an undoubted freshness in its approach to the depth of the simplest feelings.

For Spielberg, childhood is not only a symbol of purity, but also a much more elaborate idea. That audacity of adventure, an emotional risk as extraordinary as it is spontaneous. A discourse that is maintained despite the passage of time and the possible wear of the visual discourse. In other words, Spielberg analyzes the notions about the arguments that support his ideas, what moves, what excites. He does it from the perspective of amazement, from that childish gaze that arises from the discovery. That he makes it unforgettable and pure.

ET The extraterrestrial became an icon of a small, intimate kind of cinema, and perhaps one of the best-known works of science fiction auteur. Also, part of the history of cinema. Between both things, the film is a celebration of the goodness and substance of cinema as a spiritual spectacle. Without a doubt, his great legacy in the future.

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