Sundance 2015: The Visit is an Inconsistent Documentary of Our First Contact With an Alien

By  · Published on January 26th, 2015

Sundance Film Festival

The Visit introduces itself via title card as “a simulation.” While its central scenario is fake, all of the people interviewed within the film are real and speaking from legitimate expertise – which the title cards also make sure to point out. It’s been a while since a movie made such a succinct statement on how a documentary can be considered a documentary while being “fake.”

The scenario in question is first contact between humanity and an alien visitor. Officials from different organizations and think tanks concerned with extraterrestrial relations go over how governments and citizens might react to such an event. It’s surprising to discover how many people are involved in this field. There’s a lawyer who specializes in “space law and metalaw” and a theologian who acts as an ethics adviser to the French Space Agency, among other unusual professionals.

The audience is placed in the POV of this visitor, with the doc’s experts addressing the camera as if they are speaking to a being from another world. That’s a mildly interesting conceit, but it’s haphazardly implemented. Sometimes a scientist will be speaking to the fourth wall, but other times two subjects will be arguing or debating one another. It’s annoyingly inconsistent, unless these characters are supposed to be disagreeing in front of the hypothetical visitor. That’s unlikely, since in these scenes they never acknowledge its “presence.”