Pure Visual Beauty: A review of ‘The Visit’

Michael Madsen’s latest film The Visit is a simulation of what the human mankind’s first contact with alien life would be like. The Danish director creates such a film experience that the viewer can hardly forget, hence it stays with her/him wherever he/she goes.

Human beings are driven by curiosity to absorb all the knowledge the world can offer. This attribute also forces individuals to explore the unknown – sometimes for two simple reasons, namely to avoid uncertainty and to have everything under control. The thought of the existence of unidentified living creatures outer space, on another planet or in another galaxy basically makes most of us uncomfortable to a certain extent. However, many find the possibility of meeting other species intriguing, but based on the previous encounters of different cultures, we can all agree that human kind still has a lot to learn. Thus the foundation of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affair (UNOOSA) located in Vienna was without doubt a wise decision even if for the time being they’ve been only preparing for a moment that might actually never take place. But what if it will and no one is familiar with the proper diplomatic protocol to be followed in such cases?

Known for his creative vision Michael Madsen has proved again – after his outstanding film Into Eternity – that the documentary film genre is evolving and demands more attention than ever. This time he stays on the ground and goes for a trip to Vienna to capture a simulation with experts working for or with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affair. With his new documentary screened at the Titanic International Film Festival, Budapest in April he ensures everyone there is nothing to be afraid of, everything is set, and the scientists at UNOOSA and other professionals in leading positions are well-prepared. The only thing that is missing is the alien itself, but that doesn’t hinder the Danish director from carry out his unique experiment.

Every aspect – from the legal to the biological – of such an extraordinary event is presented. Lawyers, soldiers, scientists working in different fields, political strategists as well as former government spokespersons participate in this particular event, telling the reasoning behind their current actions directly to the camera that substitutes the yet-unidentified visitor. Every step of the encounter is covered, from the landing through the questioning to the examinations that are indispensable to avoid risks or any danger on both sides.

Cinematographically, The Visit pampers the eyes. During this unusual trip the viewers experience almost incomprehensible beauty that is comprised of thoroughly and consciously built motion pictures. Madsen opens up to a new universe in which severe matters are discussed but despite this the atmosphere is filled with the mix of gravity and cheerfulness. This perfect balance contributes to an unforgettable film experience after which the viewer doesn’t really want to leave the cinema.

The acclaimed Danish director and his work demonstrate that documentary film-making has its raison d’être. In addition to that, Madsen’s creative and innovative ideas provokes discussions about human actions and their consequences as well as about documentary films and non-verbal communication.

Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.

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