By LISA MARIE MEYER
The never-ending debate on scientific versus religious discovery continues in the movie, “Contact.”
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, “Contact” is based on Carl Sagan’s novel of the same name. The project was intended to ask probing, cosmological questions.
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” Sagan once said. This quote encompasses the movie’s theme.
Finally, after years of being in the works, “Contact” has come to theaters everywhere. According to “Contact’s” homepage, 17 years ago Carl Sagan and his wife were asked by Hollywood to make a movie about the cosmos and universal intelligent life.
The movie had several false starts as it went through different screenwriters, two directors and a breach-of-contract lawsuit. Francis Ford Coppola filed the suit claiming that “Contact” came out of prior agreements made in 1975. Despite the controversy, the movie has become a reality.
Jodie Foster plays radio astronomer Eleanor, “Ellie,” Arroway who is on an endless search of extraterrestrial intelligence. Ellie requires hard evidence as proof and refuses to take anything on faith. Ironically, her search for scientific truth parallels the search for religious truth.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been searching for some reason why we’re here — what we’re doing here, who are we?” Ellie said.
Scorned by the scientific community, Ellie rigorously defends her position that intelligence exists beyond our world. While listening for signals in the desert, Ellie picks up radio waves from the distant star, Vega. Military, scientific and religious viewpoints clash as everyone seeks answers on this new discovery.
Palmer Joss, played by Matthew McConaughey, plays a dramatic foil to Foster’s character. Palmer, a respected religious authority and government advisor, becomes romantically involved with Ellie. Their divergent beliefs create tension and discussion about God, science and the meaning of life.
The signal from Vega provides plans of creating a space probe to take a representative from earth to another world. Conflicts arise concerning who would best depict humanity on the “Journey to the Heart of the Universe.”
Chris Holmes, a student at Oberlin College majoring in vocal performance, felt “Contact” added a religious context, which made it inspiring as a result.