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Tyler

Arrival

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Full trailer is here:

 

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And here's the international trailer (released by Sony, not Paramount):

 

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I just read the story Arrival is based on--"Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang--and I have no idea how it will work as a movie. It's mostly a series of inner monologues about how language works, which works well in the story, but would be really difficult to make something interesting out of it onscreen.

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Well I can say however they worked it out, it is an incredibly beautiful film. I loved it. 

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Starts out a little Gravity, ends up a whole lotta Interstellar. And there's a startling image of a creature in a confined space that is very reminiscent of Villeneuve's earlier film Enemy.

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On 9/1/2016 at 4:31 PM, Tyler said:

I just read the story Arrival is based on--"Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang--and I have no idea how it will work as a movie. It's mostly a series of inner monologues about how language works, which works well in the story, but would be really difficult to make something interesting out of it onscreen.

In my opinion, this is one instance where the filmic version improves upon the written story. The film changes some of the short story's dynamics by expanding the drama and tension to global proportions, while still emphasizing the key personal elements, mainly Louise's journey.

This is a timely film. I mean that in multiple ways (let the reader understand). I might have enjoyed it less had it not arrived this particular week, but it's both an interesting exploration of some untapped ideas in sci-fi--mainly the linguistics component of how we'd actually communicate with an alien being--and Villeneuve's most hopeful film I've seen.

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In some ways this is like the post-modernist version of Carl Sagan's modernist Contact. Sagan emphasized reason and mathematics as the basis of communication, the idea that any scientifically advanced species would know that the one thing it has in common with other scientifically advanced species is a knowledge of mathematics, and thus any attempt at communication would begin on that level. But here those things take a back seat to language -- and quite explicitly so, insofar as the Jeremy Renner character, a scientist who asks questions about Fibonacci sequences etc., is less central to the story than the Amy Adams character, an expert in linguistics.

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Also, the flying saucer hanging vertically in the air like that is kind of reminiscent of the ship we see at the beginning of Prometheus.

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3 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

In some ways this is like the post-modernist version of Carl Sagan's modernist Contact. Sagan emphasized reason and mathematics as the basis of communication, the idea that any scientifically advanced species would know that the one thing it has in common with other scientifically advanced species is a knowledge of mathematics, and thus any attempt at communication would begin on that level. But here those things take a back seat to language -- and quite explicitly so, insofar as the Jeremy Renner character, a scientist who asks questions about Fibonacci sequences etc., is less central to the story than the Amy Adams character, an expert in linguistics.

That's a great observation, and considering this a post-modern Contact is apt, right down to the personal familial dynamics (parenthood). There's definitely a language > math thing going on here, or at least language is more fundamental than math.

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Sagan's novel was rooted in the idea that math and science (the laws of nature etc.) transcend any differences we might have between cultures or species or whatever. He even makes a significant plot point of "transcendent numbers" like pi. (This is less pronounced in the film version of Contact, as I recall.)

But Arrival doesn't aim for transcendence, per se... not of that sort, anyway. It certainly seeks to find some sort of common understanding, but without appeal to anything outside of ourselves. We have words and they have words and we have to figure out the best way to understand each other's words. Intersubjectivity rather than objectivity, you might say.

Matters are complicated by some revelations late in the film, but I'm avoiding spoilers for now.

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I tried to articulate how it felt to watch Arrival after reading "Story of Your Life."

Quote

While it adds and tweaks several important features, Arrival has largely the same plot as “Story of Your Life”. I think the changes improve the overall experience significantly, although that’s not what I’m mainly interested in now.

I often watch movies after reading the stories or books they’re based on — Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, for example — so the phenomenon of ticking off story beats as they appear onscreen is one I’m familiar with. But something about that process felt different with Arrival.

 

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3 hours ago, Tyler said:

Tyler: this is so good, and expresses *exactly* how I felt watching the film. Having already read the short story and knowing where the film was headed right from the very beginning, I felt like I was watching as Louise, if that makes sense. As a parent, I found both the short story and the filmic version deeply moving, but I think I was more affected by the film precisely because I knew the outcome and entered into the filmic experience with that knowledge.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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It's interesting that not long before I watched this film I had read this paper.

How Language Shapes Thought (pdf file)

The whole idea that language and how you think of reality (which language serves as a symbol both phonetically and symbolically of inner thoughts and worldviews) shapes and literally wires your brain a certain way is not a new idea. And it's incredibly interesting to watch how the heptapods understanding of time represented through their language

rewires Louise's brain so that it is literally able to see past present and future at once

. It's a powerful concept. It also is the most beautiful depiction of determinism I've ever seen, and consequently softened my view somewhat on the idea.

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The idea that learning a new language (i.e. rewiring your brain) could have the effect that it does in this film feels a little too JJ Abrams-Star Trek to me. I'm thinking of that whole stupid transwarp transporter thing. The idea that all you have to do is change the software and suddenly your hardware will be able to do something that had always been impossible until then.

But I *am* intrigued by the possibility that certain things have always been there for us to see, and for some reason our terrestrial languages had simply blinded us to those things. Reminds me of things Rod Dreher and others have talked about, re: people in Africa or South America seeing spiritual entities that the Europeans or Americans traveling with them simply could not see even when the locals *pointed* at what they were seeing.

Here's a bit from a blog post that Dreher wrote in February 2010:

"As longtime readers know, I’m fascinated by the problems of perception, and our limitations as embodied creatures. One of the most popular posts on my old Crunchy Con blog was this one, in which I wrote about the American linguist and missionary Daniel Everett who, in his book, wrote about a bizarre incident in the Amazon jungle where he was living at the time. The native people were deeply agitated, claiming that they were watching some sort of malevolent jungle deity dancing on a sandbar on the other side of the river. The whole tribe saw it. Everett and his daughter saw nothing. Though he later lost his faith and is now an atheist, Everett is still haunted by that experience...."

I just noticed that the person Dreher quoted is a linguist. Interesting.

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5 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

The idea that learning a new language (i.e. rewiring your brain) could have the effect that it does in this film feels a little too JJ Abrams-Star Trek to me. I'm thinking of that whole stupid transwarp transporter thing. The idea that all you have to do is change the software and suddenly your hardware will be able to do something that had always been impossible until then.

I'm not totally sure this is a JJ Abrams development.  I seem to recall several Next Generation episodes (usually Wesley Crusher dabbling where he shouldn't) where this sort of software/hardware plot device was used.  The one that comes to mind was an episode where one such software manipulation places his mother into a strange alternate timewarp.

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My knowledge of The Next Generation is somewhat fragmentary, and I am especially not familiar with the first few seasons when Wesley Crusher was a bigger part of the series.

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17 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

My knowledge of The Next Generation is somewhat fragmentary, and I am especially not familiar with the first few seasons when Wesley Crusher was a bigger part of the series.

I'm shocked! 

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TNG premiered during my one year at Bible school, in the fall of 1987. I watched the first episode with a few of my classmates and wasn't all that impressed. I don't think anybody at Bible school bothered to watch the series as a whole as it aired, and the initial reports from non-Bible-school friends of mine weren't good. Occasionally I'd hear about a thing here or a thing there (a friend told me about the Borg cliffhanger, which aired in June 1990, and I saw a photo of Sarek's first guest appearance in Starlog magazine, which would have been after May 1990), but I didn't start watching TNG on a regular basis until I started renting a house with some friends in the summer of 1991. And not a moment too soon, I guess, as the TOS-TNG cross-overs began with the 'Unification' episodes in November 1991 (which brought back both Spock and Sarek) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in December 1991 (which co-starred Michael Dorn as Worf's grandfather). I saw most of the remaining TNG episodes as they aired before the series ended in 1994.

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On 11/12/2016 at 8:52 PM, Tyler said:

This helped me after I finally saw the film…except for the sentence about  God knowing exactly how our lives will turn out (I’m more persuaded by open theism- though I guess both views embrace paradox)…

A few (amateur) responses –

--Couldn’t help comparing the first contact in Montana, with Star Trek VIII--the Vulcan emerging from his spaceship in Bozeman, salutes Cochrane saying “live long and prosper” in English…which they presumably knew because they had been observing Earth. This encounter led to a unified earth government, ended war, crime, poverty, etc.

--It seems likely that a visit from distinctly benign, or distinctly threatening, aliens would unite us on earth…but the uncertainty of the heptapods’ intentions caused division and violence.

--If the heptapods were all that advanced and benevolent, they would have done a better job of communicating—e.g., they wouldn’t have dangerously confused the word tool or gift, with weapon.

--Louise was able to connect to the extraterrestrials through trust, vulnerability and respect rather than military defensiveness – as a woman, if not as a mother (she wasn’t, at the time, if I got that right). But, Louise “recalls” a children’s book illustrating planets – why didn’t she show the heptapods a picture of earth with their ships coming, and ask why? Or some other image instead of letters.

--If the soundtrack/ alien noises had not been so relentlessly dark and ominous in tone, the story would have felt more inspiring – and it does ultimately transcend the dystopian vision (music affects how we think, as well as language?)

--The film might have been more satisfying if it focused either on the non-linear time aspect, or the 12 alien vessels trying to make the world cooperate peacefully. Mingling the two themes was a bit muddled, for me anyway.

 

 

Edited by phlox

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*** SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS ***

phlox wrote:
: If the heptapods were all that advanced and benevolent, they would have done a better job of communicating—e.g., they wouldn’t have dangerously confused the word tool or gift, with weapon.

But they could see the future, so they knew it would all work out in the end.

FWIW, I'm less interested in a Calvinism / Arminianism debate than I am in the question of a person's *agency* when they see their future and decide to do exactly what they have foreseen. The Amy Adams character does not merely foresee that she will have a child who will die, she *also* presumably knows in advance *when* and *how* she will break the news to her husband. Was there a way to break the news that wouldn't cause him to leave her?

The ending was very Interstellar, though -- the idea that our decisions now are affected by the decisions we will make in the future, etc. And so we are the ones we have been waiting for. Except that, here, there are the heptapods, too.

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