This week’s Sundance doc profiles open with the final film of the 2015 World Cinema Documentary Competition: From Denmark, Michael Madsen’s THE VISIT, a speculative run-through of first contact.
Sundance Program Description:
Ever since the invention of radio and television, humans have been sending signals into outer space, announcing their existence to other civilizations. THE VISIT documents an event that has never taken place: humans’ first encounter with intelligent life from another world. Through tantalizing interviews with experts from NASA, United Nations, and the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, among many others, acclaimed Danish filmmaker Michael Madsen constructs a chillingly believable scenario of first contact on Earth, beginning with the simplest of questions: Why are you here? How do you think? What do you see in humans that we don’t see in ourselves? The implications unfold within a mind-bending landscape of everyday sights and sounds that Madsen succeeds in turning bizarre and extraordinary, as if seen through the eyes of a life form exploring our planet for the first time. THE VISIT takes viewers on a journey beyond their terrestrial perspective, revealing the fears, hopes, and rituals of a species forced to confront alien life forms that may or may not view us as a threat.
Danish filmmaker Michael Madsen has previously directed three documentary features, and is best known for INTO ETERNITY, a rumination on time, humanity, and nuclear waste. His producer, Lise Lense-Møller, is a Park City alum with BURMA VJ (2009), while co-producers include Andrew Freedman (past Sundance titles HIS & HERS (2010) and UNDRESSING MY MOTHER (2006)), Sami Jahnukainen and Carsten Aanonsen (who both worked on INTO ETERNITY), Nikolaus Geyrhalter and his producing partners Michael Kitzberger, Wolfgang Widerhofer, and Markus Glaser (OUR DAILY BREAD and MICHAEL). The film’s editors are Sundance alum Nathan Nugent, who also cut last year’s fiction feature FRANK and this year’s GLASSLAND; and Stefan Sundlöf, Madsen’s editor on INTO ETERNITY.
Why You Should Watch:
Once again employing the rigorously composed style and restrained yet urgent tone that distinguished INTO ETERNITY, Madsen’s contemplative exercise proves utterly engrossing. Like a grown-up’s version of a sci-fi thriller, the film wholly dispenses with Hollywood-style hysterics to instead embrace the awe of discovery, tempered with the ineluctable anxiety of confronting the unknown.
Check out the film’s trailer and Madsen’s Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2015 Twitter list.