Movie Trivia: The Square Song
Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of The Third Kind is not only a cinematic landmark in science fiction cinema, but a well-crafted exploration of man's compulsion to solve the mysteries of the universe. It is founded on a very seventies notion that there are concepts, ideals and aspirations that are greater than our individual need and that are worth pursuing regardless of any personal sacrifice required. In this instance the film ends with the lead character, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) happily abandoning his family and the life he has, for the opportunity to be part of something unique and greater than himself. Hence, at the iconic movies climax we see him board the mothership and leave with the aliens. It is a bold and challenging philosophical stance. One that Spielberg has stated he would not now champion, as a father.
However, I would like to focus on another aspect of the film that has equal gravitas and thematic relevance but has often been neglected by critics and film historians. The specific sequence occurs when child actor, Cary Guffey, is woken at night when all of his toys mysteriously turn themselves on due to the aliens’ electro-magnetic field. Next to his bed is a record player that starts playing "The Square Song". The inclusion of this children’s’ record is this subtle addition to the unfolding events that adds an element of cognitive dissonance to the proceedings. The song which extols the virtues of rational and logical reasoning is juxtaposed against a series of events that defying such quantification. I’m sure that director Steven Spielberg deliberately added this audio embellishment to the scene to heighten the audiences growing sense of unease. It is most unfortunate for viewers that suffer from both xenophobia and squarephobia.
The song itself is a cover version of an original composition, taken from the children's educational TV show, Seasame Street. The version featured in Close Encounters of The Third Kind is by The Pickwick Children's Chorus and was from the album “Sesame Street & Other Children's Pop Hits!” (1970). Sadly, this album is now out of print and the song also doesn’t appear on any version of the movie soundtrack, which is a gross omission. It’s a shame because the cunning use of what is at first glance, just an inconsequential children’s ditty, is in fact another example of the layers of irony and duality that director Spielberg imbues the film with. It should be noted that outside of the context of the film, "The Square Song" is a very powerful piece of work in its own right. I personally have dramatically improved by identification of squares since first listening to it and am no longer mislead by any damn fool rectangle. So here for both your enjoyment and edification is the song presented in its entirety.