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The Visit



How would the first contact with extraterrestrial look? The Danish director puts this childishly simple question in his new documentary The Visit. Actually, this characterization of Madsen’s creative personality is not so precise because there is a scientist, not a child, who stands in the beginning of whole process. A scientist who enjoys the construction of hypothesis and writing scripts of possible actions. He wants to know what can be the purpose of the extraterrestrial visit. And whether we are prepared for this interaction. Madsen addresses different specialists to help him to find satisfying answers, among the others an astrobiologist, military expert or PR specialist. Because the seemingly banal act of “close encounter of the third kind” is actually a fact constituted by complexity of related issues. Wouldn’t we get infected by each other with diseases we are not immune to? How would we communicate? And is there any possibility to reveal this earth-shaking happenings to the international public without causing panic reactions? In the moment, when scientist realizes that contemporary science can’t give him suitable answers, Madsen’s child steps forward.

It’s children’s imagination what breaks in the hypothetic future and it is child who is experiencing the moment of first contact. Even the Danish filmmaker – in a way similar to the film Into Eternity – is possessing the position of speaker, who, in the name of the human kind, is talking to extraterrestrials and  who is welcoming them on the Earth. Missing response, silence on the opposite site of communication delimits exactly the border between fiction and documentary in the hybrid film, which is Madsen’s nutrient substance There is also something childishly spontaneous in the director’s ability to immediately communicate with scientific authorities. He achieves the moment of defamiliarisation by breaking usual academic patterns, when he is leading experts into the spheres of speculation and when he is inciting them to apply acquired knowledge by using higher abstraction.

Madsen’s genuine obsession for museums and libraries is also obvious and sympathetic. He sees them as some sort of “mausoleums of time” which are created with quixotic effort to expose reflection of moving life. Therefore he let his explorer dressed in orange protection suit going through antiquarian Viennese libraries and museums. Therefore hypnotic visions of the first contact with alien form of life are presented as a set of static holographic sights, when the camera circle around the slowed down, almost motionless, action. The effect on viewers of the film is similar to them looking at a display case. Madsen’s sincere intent is probably to create just these cinematographic mausoleums – time relics caught on the movie reel, which we can pass on to the next generations. And it is a sign of pure futurism to believe that our ancestors will listen to us and that they will understand us. In this way the film becomes more than just a record medium or artistic work for Danish director. He sees films as a signal transmitted across time towards the future, as another development level in the process of archiving, overcoming museums and libraries.


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Petr Pláteník graduated in Czech philology and Film studies at the Faculty of Arts of Palacký University in Olomouc, Czech Republic. He works as a freelancer. He publishes his texts in Czech magazines A2, Cinepur, Film a doba and he works for various Czech film festivals - the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, the Summer Film School Uherské Hradiště, the Academia film Olomouc and the Festival of Film Animation Olomouc. He has been interested in Nordic film for a long time, especially in Icelandic cinematography and in Nordic film and TV crime dramas. He publishes his texts on this topic mostly on his blog Přiliš velká samota (Too Big of a Solitude).