Tuesday, December 13, 2016


The main character of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, Louise Banks, (Amy Adams) is a linguist who has written a book called The Universal Language. Of course the pet theory of the famed M.I.T. linguist Noam Chomsky is "universal grammar" and like Villeneuve’s main character he’s an activist who has tried to create peace in the world. Despite Chomsky’s sui generis reputation, it's unusual to find linguists, who are usually associated with the more esoteric reaches of academe, represented as super heroes or in this case heroine--who save the world. One of the other captivating elements of Arrival is the way it links science fiction and ethno-anthropology, to the extent that both deal with a form of stranger anxiety, in which the interpretation of the other inadvertently says more about the intention of the perceiver than the thing or creature  being perceived. Deconstructionists will undoubtedly revel in the earthlings misplaced attempts to anthropomorphize the creatures who have arrived in ships that look like Brancusi sculptures. God also comes into play, since the first attempts that Louise and her team make are very much like puny men trying to make sense of the divine. The movie is brilliant in its construction. In the beginning, Louise is heard in voice over intoning, “We are bound by time and its order. Now I am not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings.” The tone is lyrical and romantic, creating a tristesse that you at first associate with the tragic loss with which the film opens. However, the meaning ultimately becomes more linguistic and academic as it's tied to the notion of the alien culture’s “non-linear orthography.” It's not that Banks is prescient; her new found ability is actually retrospective. Spoiler alert. It’s something that helps Louise eventually rewrite her own history.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.