SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2015
By Don Simpson | February 3, 2015
Director: Michael Madsen
Nonfiction filmmaker Michael Madsen places his camera in front of various government and military officials and quizzes them on their protocol for an alien encounter. (Did you know that the United Nations has an Office for Outer Space Affairs? It is located in Vienna, if you want to drop by and say hello.) None of said officials have ever seen — let along communicated with — an alien, so keep in mind this is all hypothetical; but their thoughtful responses make it abundantly clear that they take the possibility of an alien arrival on Earth pretty darn seriously. As they should, really. The chances that there are no other lifeforms in the entire universe is pretty slim. One of these days, humans will probably encounter an extraterrestrial species. Let’s just hope they are as cute as E.T.
The most effective science fiction films are the ones that change the way that the audience thinks about the universe. That is precisely what The Visit does. The Visit is a full immersive experience that allows the audience to play the role of the alien. The officials calmly tell us what they would like their alien visitor to know. Our position is an interesting one to be in. How would an alien react to these people and what they are saying? Most notably, they speak to us (the alien) in English, not that there is anything wrong with English, but it begs to question how we could actually communicate with an alien species? Even when speaking the same language, humans have enough problems with communication breakdowns, misunderstandings and misunderstandings. We cannot even fathom how an alien species would communicate with us, but maybe we will luck out and they will understand English.
Madsen’s film is impressibly assembled with a combination of scientific research and philosophy that would make Stanley Kubrick proud. At the very least, The Visit assures us that some government entities are prepared for an alien encounter; but Madsen’s film also lets us know that the qualified officials have studied and contemplated countless scenarios. In the meantime, the human race should probably start doing the same thing. We should at least learn how to best present ourselves to an alien species, assuming that their intentions will be peaceful and/or exploratory.