Friday, May 14, 2010

Contact (1997)

Back before Robert Zemeckis became obsessed with motion capture technology, he made some really entertaining and thought provoking movies. In 1997 he made one that some have compared favorably to 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of its being an intelligent philosophical science fiction. It was called Contact. Based on a novel and idea by Carl Sagan, it deals with the probable consequences of aliens making contact with humanity. Most of these consequences presumably would involve religious and scientific communities’ reactions to the news of extra terrestrial life. Therefore, the film ends up being an exploration of science and religion; how the relate and what their limitations are.

In the film Ellie Arroway, played by Jodie Foster, is a typical “seeing-is-believing,” materialistic, scientist. She has a brief relationship with a religious man named Palmer Joss who believes in God even though he cannot prove that he exists. Years later, when Ellie discovers a message seemingly from extra terrestrials, the two come back into contact when Joss prevents her from being Earth’s representative for her lack of faith.

Ultimately, Ellie does make a trip to meet the aliens, but some questions are raised when she is the only one who experiences anything of the trip, despite her being hooked to multiple monitoring devises. As far as anyone is concerned she was never absent from Earth. In the end, a scientist realizes that she has just as many beliefs as the next person. We all, whether we acknowledge it or not, live our lives accepting things by faith.

This film is a bit surprising coming from a mind like Sagan’s, as it basically presents a compelling argument for faith and against things like Modernism and Scientific Realism.

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