BY REECE GUIDA
In the past two weeks, I have seen Arrival starring Amy Adams twice… so if my opinion means anything like my mother says it does, I highly recommend this film. In short, the film is about a linguist who develops the ability to communicate with two aliens on one of UFOs mysteriously hovering over 12 global cities. Through a discourse of fear, the media largely shapes the reaction to this event while the army responds with warlike aggression to the unknown threat.
Played by Adams, Dr. Lousie Banks is tasked with discovering a way to communicate with the aliens before global panic escalates to the point of war. Although she works for the army as their translator, she also encounters TV narratives of “Alien Attacks” and their riots. In both situations, Banks is an observer who maintains critical distance from these fear-mongering entities and understands them better than any of her fellow scholars. In spite of this tension between fear and aggression, the film showed no violence, frustrating the explosion-impulse of Americans everywhere. The exception, however, is the group of rebel troops who “watch too much TV” and plant an explosion targeting the heptapods that only harmed the linguists who were unaware of the bomb’s placement and protected by the heptapods.
Overall, the film was remarkable in its aesthetic treatment of alien interactions (which was reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey) and message on ideology. In fact, these two messages complement each other: our warlike ideology built on the concepts of fear and power make human interaction difficult and often lead to miscommunication. This miscommunication results from humanity’s fundamentally flawed conceptions of time and ideology; the flexibility of the heptapod language permits them to see time completely and have the ability to know past and future.
I recommend Arrival for anyone interested in cultural critique or Netflix’s Black Mirror, so I will not spoil it for them.