26 July 2015 | Once-Upon-A-Time-I-Digress
Lost Encounter with the Third Kind
Firelight is seventeen year old Steven Spielberg's first feature feature film, the bulk of which is now lost.
Nevertheless, what images survive might seem very familiar. Whilst it's impossible to follow a plot, it's clear that a small town's residents are being terrorised by lights in the sky. Unlike the commanding and beautiful light show of Close Encounters, these early Spielberg visitors look more like bokeh Chinese lanterns. What stands out with even more recognition than glowing flying saucers is the Spielberg brand of horror which occurs throughout many of his major films; horror infused with entertainment and wonder. We feel frightened for Brody and Hooper, for Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm, but we still want to see more of those velociraptors and great white sharks. The scared looks of a young couple driving toward a luminescent UFO are a prototype for this hallmark balance of fear and fun.
Spielberg gave two reels of Firelight to an LA production company, which soon after went bust, and the reels disappeared. In all likelihood, we will never see whether Spielberg succeeded or not in sustaining a first feature length film. Perhaps it's just as well. What we are left with are enigmatic visual cues, fragments of dialogue, and the beginnings of a style that would entertain cinema-goers for decades.
Well worth watching for Spielberg completists or budding film historians but can only be judged as the corner piece of a lost ark.