Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

The Discovery

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

The Discovery

Article excerpt

The Discovery (2017), dir. Charlie McDowell

I like "what if" stories and The Discovery is just that. What if a scientist proved definitively that there is an afterlife or another plane of existence? That is exactly what Dr. Thomas Harbor has done. He has proven that consciousness is connected to matter or dependent on matter and that some consciousness/matter leaves the body at the time of death and takes up life in another dimension. The result of "the discovery" is that millions of people have completed suicide in order to "get there." Where they "get to," however, remains a mystery, so it is not clear why millions of people have completed suicide to get to some unknown place. What if the place they get to is infinitely worse than the life they had before they completed suicide?

When Socrates was condemned to death, he told his followers not to cry. He always wondered what happened to us after death and now he was going to find out the answer to that question; he did not fear the answer. He then drinks the hemlock. It seems to me a silly idea that millions of people would be following in the footsteps of such a rare character as Socrates, that they would all be exhibiting the courage that Socrates demonstrated at his death. So, the question remains, why did these millions of people complete suicide in order to "get there," when "there" is unknown?

There are essentially two options. On the one hand, "there" might be a life of eternal bliss. Okay, maybe not total bliss, but at least life "there" could be much more pleasant than life "here." On the other hand, "there" might be a living hell, or a life of maddening boredom, or something in between. Given that "there" might be a painful or unpleasant place, the idea that millions of people are completing suicide to "get there" seems foolish.

But here the movie shifts gears. Now Dr. Harbor is creating a machine that will discover where or what "there" is. Obviously it's a little late for the millions who have completed suicide, but at least we might know something about "there" before more people take the plunge. …

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