Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

The Visit

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

The Visit

Article excerpt


Directed by Michael Madsen

Danish filmmaker Michael Madsen creates a real life 'simulation' of how the world would react upon its first encounter with an alien species in this documentary film. The Visit examines a fake situation, but interviews real people, the experts who would be the first to make contact, the first to represent humankind to the alien visitors.

The viewers are placed in the position of the alien "visitor"; we see how humans in various positions of power would react to "our" visit to earth, what they would wonder about, how they would behave if they encountered "us" for the very first time.

Of interest are the people who have been chosen to represent humanity. CNES, the French Space Agency, is responsible for shaping France's space policy but also "preparing for the future." Jacques Arnould is a theologian and is an ethics and religious advisor to CNES, one of the first volunteers to be dispatched if aliens were to arrive on earth. Other experts include a social psychologist and a NASA biologist. Questions that plague religion also plague the experts: "We see ourselves as moral creatures, do you see yourself that way too?"; "Do you know what is good and evil?"; "What makes you happy?"; "Humans rarely recognize our own limitations. We see ourselves as the center of the universe. How do you see us?"; "Are you a threat to us?"

The Visit makes us examine ourselves as human beings, being met for the first time by aliens who may judge us based on our prior actions on earth, actions of violence and war against each other. But at the same time these experts make us realize that aliens are humanity's "unknown" element and we fear the unknown and tend to want to master it. …

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