“CHARIOTS OF THE GODS”
Looking for Evidence
In “Chariots of the Gods”, we travel the world looking for evidence that astronauts visited our planet in ancient times. Near the end of the movie, the narrator says “We may doubt our conclusions” yet the movie can be enjoyed as an exotic travelogue of an assortment of mysterious wonders of the world. The evidence is usually one of three different types; we hear of an ancient story which may be interpreted as a visit by extraterrestrials, we see strange looking characters in ancient works of art that may be astronauts and we see architectural wonders that appear to be impossible for the men of their time to build without the help of extraterrestrials.
Director Erich von Daniken came to international fame with the publication of his book “Chariots of the Gods” in 1968 in which he argued that aliens had come to Earth over the millennia and had influenced the ancients. Evidence of such contact, he claimed, can be found in ancient monuments, inscriptions, illustrations and references in historic texts. He argues that many works of ancient architecture including The Pyramids, the heads at Easter Island, Stonehenge and various references in The Bible can be explained by or make reference to alien visitations. The work was ridiculed by historians and archaeologists but it became a best-seller and inspired a fad throughout the 1970s.
This is a West German-made documentary based on Erich von Daniken’s book. It begins by making an admirable effort to credibly establish its premise. It opens on shots of the Mount Palomar observatory, talking about the number of stars in the sky, the mathematical breakdown on how far a light year is to scientists talking about the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. It makes a quick dig at the orthodoxy of the scientific establishment by pointing out that they claimed at the time of the invention of the train that travelling faster than 20 miles-per-hour would be damaging to the human body. It then moves on to talk about cargo cults and the examples of natives on the islands of the South Pacific during World War II who built shrines to the airplanes of pilots after they had departed. It wants us to draw analogy to ancient humanity building shrines to aliens in the aftermath of visitations.
It further ransacks history for every example in ancient texts of people ascending into or from the sky in chariots, or of beings depicted with shapes surrounding their heads using these as proof of extra-terrestrial contact or the appearance of flying saucers.
The film never interviews any scientists or archaeologists who come out in support of von Daniken’s conclusions, at most some Russian scientists who are certain that extra-terrestrial life exists. This is not an unbiased examination of evidence but a film that shows selective evidence to support a pre-supposed thesis.
On the film’s plus side, is the tour of the globe to visit some of the real locations and some very out of the way places, and all of the scenery is beautifully photographed.