Strange encounters: Devils tower -understanding sensory intuition

Above pictured is a scene taken from steven Spielberg’s 1977 film ‘Strange encounters of the third kind’ in which Richard Dreyfuss aka Roy after having interaction with aliens becomes euphoric, at rock bottom after losing his family yet almost filled with a child-like wonder. Spielberg takes us back and forth between the global and the personal, with Lacombe and his assistant Laughlin (Bob Balaban) going all over the world gathering evidence, and Roy’s own journey as he tries to make sense of an image of a large mountain in his head, which turns out to be Devils Tower in Wyoming.


For myself, I feel like Roy a lot of the time trying to make sense of the material sensibilities that allude my memories and mind, perhaps not as frantically but just as euphoric with childlike wonder. The part of the film I am particularly interested in with regards to Roy and his relationship with devils tower is the scene in which everything seems to come together and click; after Roy has built his home tower and sees the mountain on the television. In this moment memory and reality seem to collide, sensibilities cross and a mixture of confusion, euphoria and eureka moment happen which leads Roy on a quest to Wyoming of sorts.

Similarly yet perhaps maybe alien unrelated Roys experience of devils tower is similar to mine and my material/memory understanding.The key insight I guess you could take from Roys encounter or of his geography of the senses is that the senses mediate the apprehension of space and in so doing contribute to his sense of place.

What this moment in strange encounters is good at showing us is the spatiality of the senses and their role in shaping the affective relation of people to their habitat. “What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better [through our senses] and endow it with value”

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