Zemeckis’ Contact and Faithless Empiricism

It took over a decade for Carl Sagan’s Contact to become a film. It turned out to be one of the most intelligent blockbusters of the 90s…

This opening scene is one of the best I have ever seem. For me, this scene alone should have won the Oscar. Magnificent!

Yes, I can say this is my favorite movie of all times. And I felt reluctance on writing a review, such was my enchantment with this movie. I had so many deep thoughts about it I think I would never be able to express myself on a brief review. I cannot put into words what is for me a dreamlike sensation. The storyline was carefully arranged, so everything fits and the smallest of the details plays a pivotal role on the final outcome. The soundtrack by Alan Silvestri is also a highlight, which perfectly dovetails each scene.

This is so meaningful to me because it arises questions I have always been familiar with. First of all, “are there extraterrestrial life?” and the movie puts an extraordinary answer: “it would be an awful waste of space if it didn’t, once we have billions and billions of planets.”

Other questions I take from this movie:

  • Which is the role of science in society?
  • Is it shaped with financial purposes?
  • Or is it merely the seeking for truth?

The weight, sophistication and complexity of the scientific enterprise have grown over the centuries. Research has become one of the cornerstones of higher education, and fundamental to the development of industry. This led to a considerable growth of the scientific community at large, in the public and private sectors.”

Science is not a dispensable luxury. We need science for the advancement of our societies and to inform our education, improve our policies, and spur innovation. Science, as a common good, also helps all of us to make sense of and navigate the more and more complex world we live in. So when special interests threaten scientific evidence and long-term research and when access to and diffusion of science is hampered, we have to stand up in support of the scientific community.”

I highly advise you to read this full article: https://erc.europa.eu/news/scientists-power-and-power-scientists

This part blew my mind, for sure.

The question Palmer makes is so truly coherent with our existence. Palmer Joss represents the man of faith on the movie. But not the blind faith, as of the man who exploded the machine which would lead Drumlin to Vega. Joss believes in God but is such a reasonable person, he accepts other points of view, because his connection with his faith is so strong he does not need to feel endangered by atheism, for example. He has had a divinal experience, so he believes. In opposition to the dogmatic and violent faith of extremists, which is basically grounded by misinterpretations of holy books.

So, the question presented by Palmer Joss: “Are we happier, is the world fundamentally a better place? … We feel lonelier, emptier… We are becoming a synthesized society.”

One thing got my attention: What is this “synthesized society” he talks about? How would it be? Are we already living this era of manipulation and alienation sponsored by pseudo science? Is the technological advancements making us better being or only lazier and dumber ones?

But the point that, for me, is essentially the most important in this movie is certainly the ironically break of skepticism of Dr. Arroway.

Dr. Arroway represents the typical genius scientist, an originally empiric being. She only believes in facts that can be proven and tested, having a sight of faith as a “collective illusion”.

Then she has a turning point experience. She goes to Vega in a highly technological machine. But while on Earth the experiment failed (because her capsule falls directly to the water) she had the most fantastical contact: she goes to Vega in an inter-dimensional tunnel, where she meets an alien form (dressed as his dead father) and she has the incredible opportunity of seeing the galaxy itself, what was indescribably jaw-breaking.

So, for human eyes that stood on Earth the experiment failed the instant it launched. But for her it was elapsed 18 hours, in which she made the marvellous contact.

When she tells people about what happened nobody believes. There is no proof. No evidence. And Science is skeptical.

Dr. Arroway, you come to us with no evidence, no record, no artifacts; only a story that, to put it mildly, strains credibility. Over half a trillion dollars were spent. Dozens of lives were lost. Are you really going to sit there and tell us we should just take this all on faith?

What is faith? How can we prove it? That’s the essence of a feeling – it cannot be proven.

Can you prove love? But because you cannot prove does it mean it does not exist?

For me, questioning is fundamental. We should absolutely question everything – including our faith. But once we have an experience we question no more. 1 gram of practice is more than 1 ton of theory. All the theological books of the world would not be enough to make one atheist to become religious (or spiritual). Only experiment can bring us the undoubting faith.

And having faith is far beyond any religious construction. Religion is human. Human built these concepts based on their beliefs and sights. And if God, the Creator, allowed humans to build such Institutions maybe it serves a purpose, maybe he encourages our discussion even though he knows it leads nowhere, once our true connection is inside, above all concepts and readings, in a field that only our consciousness could take us: to experience itself.

2 thoughts on “Zemeckis’ Contact and Faithless Empiricism

  1. I love Jodie. She is always so great. The movie uses well the time to mess with our feelings. It is great building momentum.

    The part about god on the interview really pisses me off so bad. Agh!
    And after watching Gattaca I seriously doubt they would choose Drumlin.
    They would at least get someone younger. I mean, Drumlin’s prostate would explode in the wormhole – ooo he exploded anyway uh? poor choice of words. welp.

    I would not accept an alien to use my memories to make it “easier for me”. I’m fucking here already, mate. Gimme the hard way. C’mon. Don’t wanna hug an alien cosplaying my father.

    The movie kinda makes us “choose” between faith or truth. Then, in the end, it was like: have faith to find the truth.

    And heeeere, I think Ellie character broke. She was so strict with her methods, but she broke like a hippie drinking a tea. I really believe she hallucinate the whole event.
    Yeah, boo warchild.

    But for movies, I tend to use the “Scissors concept”. It is like the camera focus a scissor, something will happen with it. Anticipation.

    When the alien/father kissed her, soon she was “back” on earth. The place the kiss took place appeared a wound. The movie made us see that so clear. In the center. Then with bandages and stuff. Unfortunately, I cannot upload the pictures to back up the argument in the comment section.

    So I assumed it was a whole extra sensorial thing she endures. With all the shit going on inside her memories while fucking magnetic fields were going nuts. That’s why she got no proof. I really won’t believe aliens would do this whole mess to say the message: have faith.

    18 hours of static recorded. We can’t deny some serious shit happened inside. I don’t believe the old grampa was making a prank. But while she was awake she saw some weird things going on with the physical materials. The amount of data recorded could be malfunction. I have an old recorder that changing modes could get a “slow-motion effect” using more tape to record – a simple weak electronic change. Just the movie messing with us. My humble opinion.

    But I am not deep in love with my opinion too. I tell you why after theeeee:
    Politics, economics and religion questions. yay!

    One thing merges them all: the interest.
    People “sell” what matters to them.

    It is amazing how climate change is still being debated and no actions are taking place.
    I am tired of what I call “porn science” for newspapers – researches with doubtful scientific methods just to sell articles. Even fake studies could be published in Science Magazine…. such a mess.
    Don’t even get me started on Pharmaceutical Science.

    The day we drank some beer (and you tried to hit me with an axe) I told you that I felt the world is getting stupider and nothing good is coming from it. You said at the time “I believe there is a lot of good things showing up” or something like that. My question would be: “For whom?”. But I didn’t want to sound so fucking negative since I did understand your overall point too – and it is cool to me to shut the fuck up sometimes. Look at this freaking comment. Do I have faith in anything at all? Palmer would hate me.

    Science is making us happier?
    No. But it is making us live more. According to the article you shared:

    “In 1800 43% of the world’s new-borns died before their fifth birthday. In 1960 child mortality was still 18.5% globally. In 2015 child mortality had dropped to 4.3% – ten times lower than two centuries ago. And child mortality (children under five) in rich countries today is much lower than 1%!
    Since 1900 the global average life expectancy has more than doubled and is now approaching 70 years. No country in the world has a lower life expectancy than the countries with the highest life expectancy in 1800.”

    Science is helping us born safer. And live more. We can’t take it back. Are we happier? Maybe we used to die early and still sad. Is science make us more sad/empty? Happiness is an individual feeling that we should seek by ourselves? Maybe Science just making us live more to try and reach there.

    There is a bunch of angles here. I can’t even… I’m so tired.

    Love the quote in the article:
    “To understand the scientific method, one has to realize that progress comes from a continuous process of calling into question. A proposition is only scientific if it is falsifiable, in other words if anyone can verify it or invalidate it.” This is why “the history of scientific ideas is an excellent school of doubt, humility, rigour, honesty and the critical spirit, which are prime virtues in the service of a passion for knowledge.”

    Continuing about the movie, the guys made such a drama. I mean. They have to catalog her experience. And try again. Put more people inside. The weight is a problem? Two dwarves. I don’t know. Repeat, scientists! “But it wastes a lot of money”. They should know better, right?

    Thanks if you read all of this. haha I am not angry. I just express myself in “angrysh” I guess. I so confused right now. haha I am feeling all over the place. Jesus. (oh, hey palmer!)

    I loved your review.

    P.S.: The scene with the girl in bed and a huge unicorn poster… that was soooo you.
    P.S.2: So tired while writing this piece. Sorry if it sounds nonsensical or any English mess.
    P.S.3: WordPress comments section is kicking my ass.

    1. omg i fucking love this film and the part jodie goes from skeptic scientist to faithfully believer of an experience she had really amazes me and i find a kind of a personal connection with this… idk, i love every millisecond of this… waiting forward to reading the book xD but i guess it may happen only in a distant future once (you know) i have an extensive queue for books and i methodically have to follow the order i randomly put hehe :* thanks for the comment

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