In cinema, in addition to making drama a filmic genre – when, by definition, other genres are based on drama – they also coined a subgenre! Despite not being official, the term “dehydrating film” can be easily accepted among moviegoers, as a sub-genre of drama. The film that dehydrates is what the word itself indicates: exaggerated discharge of a quantity of liquid. And, because it is linked to the drama, we know that the liquid that is about is the tear. So, the dehydrating film is the one that produces a flood of tear secretion from a drama that moves in excess.
I list dozens of dehydrating films in front of which it is difficult to control the emotional flow of tears. In Billy Eliot The Dead Poets Society are liters of crying. For there is the drama that moves, that penetrates human frailty; and the drama that tears, that lacerates. Steven Spielbergone of the greatest living directors of American cinema, is responsible for creating works of dehydrating excellence capable of dismantling our emotional resistance. the color purple (1985), The list by Schindler (1994) and he: ET – the extraterrestrial (1982) are the three examples of cinematic moments that took me to the extreme of emotion.
O movie theater, as it is part of the performing arts universe, it is nothing other than the planar dimension that, instead of imitating, shapes emotions and keeps them within what Deleuze and Guattari called the “block of sensations”. Cinema invites us to be part of this block and to delve into its vitality, intensity and affectivity. When we watch a movie, we are inside the block of sensations, breathing with it, even if it is to feel suffocated, as in suspense and horror films. But this is it: we pulse together to the sensations that come to us in parts, in cuts, in frames, but which are resolved as a whole, a block, a compact mass within which emotions are provoked and suggested.
Spielberg performs this task masterfully; It involves us in such a way, that is, it insinuates itself to us with its images, that, when we realize it, we are already taken by the film, trapped – albeit for a provisional time – in the envelope of the work, in the block of sensations. ET – the extraterrestrial had this effect on me, on the children and youth of my generation and generations to come. For this reason it is among the greatest films produced in the history of cinema. Acting under the power of seduction, Spielberg created a true masterpiece, entangling people within an irresistible film that, in addition to “dehydrating”, enchants with other attributes.
In an article written for the present column of the Diário do Rio (“Steven, o fraterno”), I stated the following: “friendship permeates many of Spielberg’s works, as the continuous motto of his thought. In fact, if we focus on the whole work – and not merely on accidental issues of the film – we will observe that Spielberg built, little by little, a cinematic discourse on friendship”. The adoration I have for Spielberguian cinema has brought me back to this movement operated in many of his films, which is the passage from friendship, as a potentiality, as an internal affective dynamic, to the act, to concretization.
This time the heart of the question about fraternity is ET – the extraterrestrial, due to the celebration of its forty years of launch. Well then. The film came to light on June 11, 1982, by Universal Pictures, invading movie theaters in the USA and being the main attraction of the summer season. The commercial boom took Spielberg’s work to ranking box office in the history of cinema, until it was surpassed, curiously, by another work of his own, which was Jurassic Parkin 1993. ET it was acclaimed by the public and critics, gaining the level of significant cinematographic production for its aesthetic and ethical contribution – the latter being the one I consider the most expressive and, therefore, stronger from an emotional point of view.
It is known that Spielberg, in the early 1980s, joined the screenwriter Melissa Mathison, so that a story, in potential, becomes an act. Since his youth, in the 60s, the director had in mind to develop a narrative in which the character would be an imaginary friend. In the 70s, after filming Close contacts of the third degreeSpielberg planned to write the screenplay for a film that would be called watch the skies – title later changed to night skies – where a family would be terrorized by aliens. However, there was an alternative to the plot, where a benevolent member of the alien race would create a bond with the autistic son of that same family victim of attacks. It was then that Melissa Mathison came in to restructure the narrative thread, which at first would be called ET and meuntil becoming what movie we know.
the plot of ET – the extraterrestrial begins with the sudden departure of an alien spaceship that, upon landing on Earth, exploring the region’s botany, was forced to do so by sighting the presence of government agents. In their haste, they leave and forget about one of the aliens. The alien, of small and stocky stature, not knowing where to go, migrates to a safer place, in the middle of the forest. In a suburban neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, the boy Elliot (Henry Thomas) is entertained with older brother Michael (Robert Mac.Naughton) and your friends. It’s night. Elliot goes to the door to get the pizza. On his way back, he notices something strange in the backyard, more precisely in the tool storage. When approaching, comes the initial scare: from inside the warehouse comes rolling a ball. Wrapped in the fog of night, the mystery: “who is there?” Elliot runs home, causing an uproar among family and friends, but no one takes him seriously, after checking the warehouse that there’s nothing there. They mock the boy and leave.
Elliot doesn’t give up. Unable to sleep, he returns to the warehouse in one of the many visual impact scenes common to the film. He invades the cornfield, lantern in hand, intrigued by the situation. Until he faces the alien causing mutual hysteria. The alien runs desperately into the cornfield. The next day, Elliot goes into the woods in search of ET and creates a trail of candy luring him to his house. The alien quickly reappears in the house and is welcomed by Elliot, who shelters him in his room, hidden from his mother Mary (Dee Wallace). Little by little, the relationship between the alien and Elliot begins to deconstruct, losing hostility and fear, giving way to acceptance and an attempt at dialogue.
Elliot perceives in the guest a mimetic ability, resulting from alien intelligence that we are unfortunately unaware of. ET copies the boy’s gestures, tries to establish a possible communication. In that first moment, ET sees in Elliot the friend who can be useful, the one capable of helping him find his way back home. Driven by curiosity for his new friend, Elliot pretends to be sick to his mother, and doesn’t go to school. But he reveals to the silly Michael and the youngest and sweetest Gertie (Drew Barrymore) the secret to which they soon adhere.
The children and Michael witness several manifestations of the alien’s telekinesis power as he miraculously spins balls of modeling clay, revitalizing wilted flowers and healing wounds with his fingertip, illuminated by a certain red light. The spirit of brotherhood is born on both sides: humans becoming more and more interested in helping the lost alien and the latter wanting to help fragile humans. That’s what happens when, through the hero’s comic book Buck Rogers, the alien sees a device used as a communication device. So, he asks Elliot to create a similar device with him. Promptly, the boy makes the request and both build a channel of communication.
On Halloween, Elliot disguises the ET in a white sheet and hides it in the bicycle basket. That is a pretext for both of them to flee to the forest to make contact with the aliens through the crude device invented. This trip takes place in the iconic scene where ET, with his powers, makes the bike move in the sky. The two arrive in the forest, night falls and the alien disappears. Elliot finds him the next morning, lying in a hole, dying, pale, weakened. Desperate, he returns home. The mother, in turn, discovers the guest and is terrified, pushing the children away from the alien. But it’s too late. Government agents invade the house, making inquiries, while scientists seal off the place, turning it into a makeshift hospital; as a precaution they remove the sick alien from the presence of humans.
From this brutal separation, the fraternal relationship between Elliot and ET is no longer that of the level of interest, when a friend promises to perform a service that is dear to us. ET healed and brightened Elliot’s boring life, while Elliot gave him the means and hope to see his people again. From then on, respect was established; and between the two of them, interest was no longer a reason for friendship, but friendship now did not exist because of reasons, but there was by itselffor the simple fact that one nourishes a feeling of love for the other, one wants the other for love.
So much so that it hurts little Gertie to see the flowers wither again. It’s a sign that ET is going to die, for being away from home. Elliot is not satisfied with being away from his friend, because pure friendship, she that is virtuous, cannot bear distance; and tries, at all costs, to minimize the gaps that separate the “I” from the “other”, through an effort of approximation. Elliot runs to his friend, suffers from his worsening, but is also encouraged to see him react and indicate that it is time to return to the forest, as contact with the ship has given positive results. They’re coming!
Elliot warns Michael and they find a way to escape. They ask for cover from friends who meet them on the way. They steal a van and free the alien from the surveillance of the scientists. But the police confront them and try to block them. Elliot and ET get on the bike as the cops try to capture him. ET unleashes his telekinesis power, and once again, Spielberg and Mathison prepare us for the film’s visual apex, when the boys ride their bicycles through the city’s afternoon sky until they reach the point in the forest where the spaceship is waiting for its lost alien. There is no one who does not get goosebumps with such a scene.
From there it’s just shedding tears. Elliot knows the joy of having a true friend is coming to an end; and the alien lives the same; feelings like love, gratitude, until then supposedly considered a human exclusivity, appear on the scene under an extraterrestrial body. ET externalizes the infinite universality of love and friendship; proving that there is no planetary boundary that separates it, nor language that invalidates it. It is lived as it can be lived, within the limits of the body, whatever it may be. It is visible in the alien’s expressive, moist blue eyes and in his heart pulsing and burning like embers. And Elliot is the channel through which this union is possible, for the child is the human being most apt to understand the recesses of the secret language of love.
Remembering the wise Spinoza, who always accompanies me like a pagan Bible: love is an expression of the maximum power of the soul and body; in love we are infinitely full of energy, we grow, we unite with the whole; and friendship is the feeling of expansion shared with others that we want by our side without any interest; just because it’s even more potent to share power than to enjoy it alone. ET, if I could take Elliot; and so would Elliot, keeping him in his house as a friend. By teaching us so much about fraternity at a time when the cold war was still in force in the world, Spielberg symbolizes the banner of a cinema that makes us cry by enlivening in our soul the thirst for infinite power, the infinite will to love and share.