Skip to main content

Jodie Foster in Contact

Contact ver2.jpg

I recently watched (for the first time) the movie Contact, which may seem odd since it's almost 20 years old, and not the sort of movie that anyone describes as a classic. Still, it has its moments.

I did read the book back in the day. And this is one of those instances -- hardly unique -- in which my strongest impression coming away from the movie is about how much of the book they jettisoned. There will be something of a spoiler in what follows as I explain this, by the way.

Consider the whole childhood backstory. In the novel, the protagonist had found memories of her father and a terrible memory of his death when she was nine. So far so good, that's in the movie, too. But in the novel, the character's mother then married another man, and her teenage years were filled with tensions with the step-Dad.

Here's the threatened spoiler: Near the end of the novel, the step-Dad turns out to be her biological Dad. Mom conceived with him, then they split for a reason I've forgotten, then came Mom's encounter with the man that the protagonist came to think of as her Dad, then biological Dad comes back into picture after nurturing Dad has died. But he posed as her step-Dad, so to speak, out of respect for the bond she had had with nurturing Dad.

An unusual and inventive twist, totally lost in the movie. In this new context, there is only the one Dad, who died when the protagonist was 9. Her flashbacks don't include any mother, who is said to have died in childbirth. We're left uncertain about which relatives took her in after her single Dad's death.

It is a small subplot in a movie about Grand Themes such as human/alien contact. But I came away from the movie mourning the loss of that subplot.


Popular posts from this blog

Great Chain of Being

One of the points that Lovejoy makes in the book of that title I mentioned last week is the importance, in the Neo-Platonist conceptions and in the later development of the "chain of being" metaphor, of what he calls the principle of plenitude. This is the underlying notion that everything that can exist must exist, that creation would not be possible at all were it to leave gaps.

The value of this idea for a certain type of theodicy is clear enough.

This caused theological difficulties when these ideas were absorbed into Christianity.  I'll quote a bit of what Lovejoy has to say about those difficulties:

"For that conception, when taken over into Christianity, had to be accommodated to very different principles, drawn from other sources, which forbade its literal interpretation; to carry it through to what seemed to be its necessary implications was to be sure of falling into one theological pitfall or another."

The big pitfalls were: determinism on the on…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…