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UCHRONIC MAGAZINE OF THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY OF TOMORROW
"As all the great travelers, I have seen more things of which I remember,
and remember more things of which I have seen" ISAAC DISRAELI
 
OPINION - DIGITAL CELLULOID - CONTACT
 
 
 
CONTACT (1997)
Bandera España

 “You’re an interesting species …the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other”

EXTRATERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE

 


By Patric Laneuville Châlons*. Email: plch@tiemposfuturos.es
(SUBJECT: CONTACT PATRIC)

(1)- “It’s so beautiful. Poetry. They should’ve sent a poet.”-whispers astronaut Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) as she contemplates a galactic dawn in all its splendor, from her small one-seater of alien design. During her marvelous epic poem, fruit of a brilliance (guaranteed with a scientific base) that impedes the viewer from blinking (if they don’t want to miss it), she unfolds fleetingly into another “I”, into the child that was, who speaks from the other side of time. If you cough you also miss it.


 (2)- Do you believe in God, Doctor Arroway?”
The theologist Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey) loves her enough to prefer that she stay on Earth, throwing a poisoned dart into the commission in charge of choosing the traveler and whose answer he will rule out “ipso-facto”. The trick causes the hoped-for effect in Doctor David Drammin’s (Tom Skerit)  benefit… who came out of the Alien craft so traumatized, the eighth passenger, that it converted him into an ambitious being, without scruples, who was, the “light” bad guy of the film.   

(3) Dad, could we talk (through the radio) to mom (who passed away a long time ago)?”
-“Not even the strongest radio could go that far”
The premature death of her father, who taught her to love the stars, and with whom …she would be in contact with again!! pushes her even more towards her objective, to look for intelligent alien life, to look for answers. “If it is just us….seems like an awful waste of space!” (A sentence cited with perfect symmetry, at the beginning, the middle and the end of the film) 

Three examples to show.

 The great Eduardo Punset in his book “The Happiness Trip” concludes that emotions are key in any human project. Emotion was the dominant element in the life of the scientific soul of the film, Carl Sagan, who passed away before the premier probably in order to contemplate it from the other side of the universe, where the image and sound quality are much better than the digital and earthly Dolby Surround Sound. Emotion prevails in the film which deservedly won the prestigious Hugo of Science-Fiction award for best dramatic performance. “After the silence, what gets closest to expressing the inexpressible is the music.” The authors of the film listened to Aldous Huxley and they used it with profusion to transmit emotions, sensations, feelings, inexpressible perfections by other means of communication. Coincidences, in reality, there are few, and the protagonist being a woman isn’t one of them. This woman does one of her best performances, although lacking 100% of the presupposing merit: Jodie Foster interprets herself, the child prodigy that she really was. By the way, James Woods (another child prodigy) and Angela Bassett superb as well.

According to the previous part one could conclude that “Contact” is all heart and lacks severity, which is nothing farther from the truth: The structure that sustains it (Sagan’s novel) results in a scientific solidity that is quite uncommon in other science-fiction productions, in spite of the script not adjusting to the original text of the author of “Cosmos”. It’s as if the scientists were film-makers, the second really did create the guaranteed product, supported and closely watched by the first: “Contact” is a film, except for a few minor errors, (the protagonist, for example, doesn’t feel the temporary Einsteinian dilatation), which is perfectly correct from a scientific point of view. Maybe the most correct ever filmed. This, after thousands of science-fiction films from all times, is a huge difficulty. It may sound pretentious and/or questionable if this were said by a film critic, but I’m keeping an ace up my sleeve, here you go: Declarations from the SETI Institute: “In spite of the small objections, there is no doubt that “Contact” is indescribably more exact in its representation of SETI that any other movie made in the history of Hollywood.” Of course. Carl Sagan fed off Thorne’s knowledge, an outstanding relative physicist, to design a “worm hole” possible system, to travel between distant points in the cosmos. The advisors were the very own SETI, the JPL (the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Pasadena), the VLA (Very Large Array), the California Institute of Technology, among others. Zemeckis, the creative son of Steven Spielberg, who directs the film splendidly said that his objective was “to create an absolutely realistic representation of a marvelous event”. (A character was even based on a real blind investigator, Ken Clark). As you can see, nobody needed to pat themselves on the back because enough people undoubtedly did it for them.  

 Unrelated to the emotional and scientific shots, the film is extraordinarily plausible, credible, perfectly believable. John Lennon was assassinated and probably would be thousands more times in thousands more lives that he lived. The media and social circus, the patron Mr. Hadden, (the guardian angel that everyone wants for themselves), the absurd military protection, all so far from the European idiosyncrasy shouldn’t distract us or sediment precipitated judgments: The story takes place in a place called The United States, with its great and infantile weaknesses, that at this point in the film, we all know. Whether we like it or not, that’s the way they are. On top of it, everything makes sense: The human misery becomes a barrier before alien civilizations, with few altruistic outbursts in between. We aren’t socially prepared, well that’s too bad… although we all know (or are) little marvelous individual heroes. But here, like in basketball, we play as a team.    

Contact”, like “2001” and “Blade Runner” (that provoke a crushing unanimity), gets there or doesn’t. It touches the most sensitive fiber or it leaves one indifferent. If a positive experience, as well as living a fabulous experience of two hours and 24 minutes, the viewer is going to sleep with another marvelous gift: The film leaves an inerasable print in your most profound “I” that will stay there for many years. Undeletable or consuming, that’s the question. The interrogations that it opens, the philosophical implications that are raised, become inactive in our memory, hibernating, and they unfreeze once in a while assaulting us in betrayal. And when it happens, it reminds us of our insignificant coordinates and our relative size: Lost and little, very little. (The ones who constructed the teletransportation system were other ones who disappeared a long time ago… whaaat? Mmm, this is beyond me). An anonymous critic, a blogger, if you wish, Loganxxx, said about the film what we think is said in a very precise way: “It’s not a film apt for just anyone, it’s too sublime and it poses questions that many don’t formulate because they neither understand the concepts nor integrate them.”     

But the real debate develops during the filming and goes much farther than the relevance of the film in our neurons. Science versus religion, opens the classic Platonic-Aristotelic debate, faith or reason, both currents amalgamating in a glorious (or politically correct, depending on how you look at it) technical tie. Ellie Arroway has many questions about alien intelligence, but it asks patience of her, science has led her up to there, but it’s blind faith that she carries under her arm.

William of Ockham, a Franciscan monk from the sixteenth century stated a “scientific principle” that “Contact” paid attention to, “In equal conditions, the most simple explanation is the right one”. A film with a splendid script and splendidly directed, interpreted, produced and documented is probably a splendid film. We won’t complicate things. 

FOR CARL, OF COURSE.

* Pseudonym of Ramón Galí

VISIT OTHER CINEMATOGRAPHIC CRITIQUES:

BLADE RUNNER
BLADE RUNNER
FORBIDDEN PLANET
FORBIDDEN PLANET
TIME MACHINE
TIME MACHINE
CONTACT  
CONTACT
MEMENTO
MEMENTO
BRAZIL
BRAZIL
2001
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
MINORITY REPORT
MINORITY REPORT

* The copyrights of the shots from the movie, posters and trailers belong to their corresponding production companies and distributors.

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SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY MOVIES . CINEMATOGRAPHIC CRITIQUE. BLADE RUNNER.
MEMENTO. FORBIDDEN PLANET. TIME MACHINE. BRAZIL. 2001. MINORITY REPORT. CONTACT