Found footage. I know, a handle was so fresh with Blair Witch in 1999 (though there were other major works in the genre before that of course) has become a bit of a warning flag. Warning, because this footage was found they’ll be a lot going on here that’s fairly pedestrian before we get to the good bits.
With this in mind I’m delighted to report that Encounter solves much of this by mixing found footage with classic film style (exceptional cinematography!) and placing character and story centre stage from the beginning to the degree that the build up is underpinned by a sense of dread. It’s also a film in which the Encounter mentioned is a psychological one as well as a physical one.
Indeed, the found footage is more of a stylistic story point at the beginning that’s intercut with a fully cinematic narrative. My understanding is that this hybrid approach was intended by the director to underline the theme of objective vs subjective reality. As our main characters faith in objective reality fades- so does the found footage style.
Talking to the director Fulvio Sestito, it’s clear the idea that inspired him is of the fine line between fact and fiction. With so many people believing in extra terrestrials, among the crazies there will be people who have their heads screwed on yet claim to have seen something that cannot be rationally explained. What if that person was a loved one? What would you choose to believe about them?
As the documentary film maker we follow in Encounter moves through this world of potential alien phenomena he starts to doubt his once powerful beliefs that these people are often dealing with past trauma through an alien abduction fantasy.
As the film progresses our lead enters an alien world both literally and figuratively. The production value here is imaginative and vibrant and gives us a third act that confidentially owns the notion of going into a spaceship, whereas in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) it had been an add on concept to get more money out of the films re-release.
Overall a noteworthy and classy addition to a genre that evidentially still has some life in it. Be abducted for its swift running time, and look twice at the sky on the way home as you ask yourself, could the UFO fanatics truly all be wrong?