The Visit: An Alien EncounterCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Cinematic portrayals of alien visitation are not a new phenomenon. A previously well-trodden path littered with movies enjoying classic status, interstellar invasion films are a shaky ground to retread. Danish artist and director Michael Madsen’s The Visit: An Alien Encounter, a documentary (or “simulation”) exploring the potential response of real-life experts to such an event, proposes a rather more self-reflective approach to the genre. Assembled as a kind of hypothetical Q&A, Madsen’s film recycles the same issues. However, he deals with them in such a way that would appear to work well as an idea, but suffers greatly from a distinct lack of depth.
As Madsen himself states in his narration: “This film documents an event which has never taken place.” Consulting a varied cross-section of field experts, including astrobiologists, space engineers, ex-military personnel and staff from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the film proceeds to question these international emissaries on what their responses might be to alien “first contact” on Earth. While a potentially fascinating premise on the surface, The Visit: An Alien Encounter often feels self-consciously aware of itself; the fervency with which it tries to tackle its own philosophical inquiries leads to a jumbled and uneven patchwork of ultimately underwhelming answers.
As such, burning questions abound: “Why are you here?”, “What makes you happy?”, “What do you care about?” Punctuated by minimalist slow-motion shots of clinical laboratory interiors and ornate Viennese exteriors (where UNOOSA is based), the talking head-style interview scenes examine the range of reactions with a Kubrickian, surreal sense of disconnection. Madsen is clearly a very talented individual, but the fundamental notion being explored here seems more suited to a smaller scale of investigation.
Perhaps the most skillful aspect of the film lies in the way it requires the audience to assume the role of the “aliens” themselves; Madsen’s own narration addresses viewers directly, calling into focus the complexities of human behavior when faced with the ultimate unknown. By forcing ourselves to look inward at what makes us human, under the guise of guests from another world, there is an immediate sense of urgency inherent in the tone and the pace of the movie – what more of a terrifying scenario affects the human race than otherworldly contact?
The Visit: An Alien Encounter is an innovative cinematic exploration of the dark matter of extra-terrestrial scrutiny and the subsequent human introspection, but ultimately it doesn’t discover any new forms of life.
The Visit: An Alien Encounter is released in select cinemas on 25th January 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Visit here: