Speculation on 'Contact' - Design Impact of Chair

Hector X. Cruz

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This thread concerns the film, 'Contact' and the scene where the Jodie Foster character, Ellie Hathaway, argues vociferously for the removal of the chair that the engineers who have constructed the Machine have included, violating the original design schematics.
She argues that they should trust the original "blueprints" and not include any supplemental features. Well, during her travels through the wormhole, we see her getting tossed around violently and with extreme force, even seeing the space she occupies become distorted across some sort of time continuum. When she detaches herself to retrieve the compass given to her by Palmer, the chair is violently retracted toward the ceiling of the pod.
I have always wondered what would have happened to her had her character prevailed in eliminating the chair. Would her body have imploded? Would she have been tossed around like a rag doll?
What are the thoughts of the HTF?
-Hector
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[Edited last by Hector X. Cruz on August 21, 2001 at 05:50 PM]
 

Colin Dunn

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Spoilers ahead...
When she got up out of the chair, she was floating, as if weightless. The stress being put on the chair, causing it to wobble violently and detach, was coming from the bottom of the transporter.
I suspect that she would have just floated around in the middle of the transporter, not bothered by the intense vibrations of the transporter's shell. In fact, when the chair gets flung against the wall, she's unharmed because she's floating inside the transporter. Had she been in the chair, she would have been flung against the wall, and quite possibly injured.
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Colin Dunn
 

Hector X. Cruz

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That's an interesting speculation, Colin. I hadn't considered that the violence in the transporter was DUE to the inclusion of the chair.
But it is true that she was floating gingerly in the center of the pod, even with the chair vibrating.
Any other thoughts?
-Hector
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Josh Dial

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I agree with Colin, the chair was somehow amplifying the vibrations; without it, she would have been probably suspended or otherwise weightless.
cheers!
Josh
 

Darcy Hunter

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Had she stayed in the chair, she would most certainly have been seriously injured, or even killed. That was the whole point of showing her compass floating gently in front of her while she's being violently shaken. That's when she realizes why the aliens had no chair in their plans.
 

James Q Jenkins

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The stupid thing that has always bothered be is:Spoiler: why did the chair bang against the side of the pod when it disconnected? Wouldn't it just float like Jodie if it was disconnected from the pod? It makes no sense and pulls me out of the movie every time I see it.

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-JQJ
 

Sam Davatchi

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This is interesting. I’m glad you mentioned it. I don’t remember when but long ago I posted a similar topic about this. I mentioned that not many viewers might get that the violent vibration was because of the chair in it contrary to the design and that she was saved by the compass. I think the meaning of the compass is important here.
[Edited last by Sam Davatchi on August 22, 2001 at 08:14 AM]
 

RicP

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James,
I always thought it was because of the tremendous magnetic field created by the machine. Remember when the battleship actually lurched towards the machine because of the intense magnetic pull?
I assumed that the chair, not supposed to be there, was pulled into the wall of the transport by the magnetic field. Ellie was saved because she noticed the compass (it may save your life one day) floating in front of her calmly.

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DaveF

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Good stuff here!
I never really thought about that particular sequence, and Colin's and others comments make sense.
Now I have to re-watch Contact to re-consider pod segment.
 

Bruce Hedtke

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What happened to the chair once the sphere stopped? I'm thinking of the sequence where she is on the beach talking with her dad. I mean, was she still inside the sphere at that moment? With the way the air rippled when she tried to touch it gave me the impression that she was still inside the sphere but it was completely transparent. If that is the case, where did the chair go? It couldn't have become invisible because it wasn't part of the original sphere design-just like Ellie. That's what's bugged me most about that sequence. Was she still in the sphere or inside some other type of transport that took her to the beach world?
Bruce
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TonyD

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i remember thinking that the chair was not supposed to be there and that was what caused all vibrations in the pod.
and i thought the ship lurching was caused by the wave created by the spinning of the machine.
as soon as the chair popped of its base the vibrations stopped didnt they.
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Dave Dugan

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Bruce:
I had assumed that everything she saw on the beach, including her father and...the beach, were communicated directly to her mind.
Whatever the case, if they were technologically advanced enough to greet her as her father, pet-names and all, then I wouldn't put it past them to make a chair unnoticable for a few minutes.
-Dave
 

MickeS

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It was fairly obvious to me that the vibrations were caused by the chair, and she would have been better off without it. The whole point of the scene, IMO, was to show that the intelligence of the aliens was far more evolved than that of earth's scientists, and that we should trust them more.
And yes, I too believe that the chair was flung to the wall because of the magnetism.
/Mike
 

Iain Lambert

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I hate to nitpick one of my favorite films, but what to compasses measure? Yep, magnetic fields. So why if its a magnetic field that flings the chair against the ceiling does the thing just float along without a care in the world?
 

Hector X. Cruz

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The entire sequence on the beach is debatable. The key to whether or not it actually took place is in the fact that her recording mechanism captured 18 hours of static, as stated by Angela Basset's character.
Given that it did take place, and that the scenario was constructed for her by the aliens, pet names and all, then I think it is fair to say that they were technologically advanced enough to obscure the chair momentarily.
The inclusion of the chair, it seems, violated the design principles of the craft, and caused these shifts in space-time continuums.
Another topic altogether is why an alien species would go to such lengths to merely make contact for the purposes of creating mental scenarios specific to only the passenger of the pod. I would think that with their sophistication, they would want to send along a civilization-spanning message.
But that is another thread, now isn't it?
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ace peterson

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Good topic for discussion here. I always thought that the chair was always shaking so violently, and eventually being detached, because it was not part of the design. I agree with the thoughts that she would have just floated in the middle of the pod through the whole trip. The violent shaking of the pod was transferred through the hull and up the chair into Elly's body. The part where the chair totally rips off and gets thrown into the wall confirms that it wasn't supposed to be there in the first place. I think that if Elly didn't unloose herself towards the end, she would of been very seriously hurt or even killed. *and doh! that would reck the movie!*
The whole beach scene... I know the aliens "downloaded" her thoughts and memories, but I think the conversation took place in a room outside the pod. You'll remember that she was able to touch the sides of this high-tech, virtual reality-type, 3D cube. I don't think that would have happened if she would have had the whole experience transferred into her brain by the aliens.
I read the book a while back, but I don't recall it saying anything specific about the chair's ultimate fate.
Have fun!
Ace
 

Danny R

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Another topic altogether is why an alien species would go to such lengths to merely make contact for the purposes of creating mental scenarios specific to only the passenger of the pod. I would think that with their sophistication, they would want to send along a civilization-spanning message.
In the book they did. The goal was to get humanity to learn how to read God's messages to us.
For those of you who haven't read the book, you should. The movie changes the whole tone of the original work.
 

Greg_Y

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The goal was to get humanity to learn how to read God's messages to us.
Are you sure about this? I only read half of the book (Sagan was much better at non-fiction than fiction), but this would really surprise me, being that Sagan was a strict atheist.
I'd be shocked to know that this was Sagan's "message".
 

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