Male and Female
Alien Invasion Thriller
Immediately we are grabbed from our seats into the journey of Dr. Louise Banks and her discovery of what it means to be bound by time. Played vulnerably by five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams (American Hustle, Doubt), Dr. Banks is weighed down in life by the loss of her daughter to cancer. While a sixth nomination for Adams is unlikely for this role, Arrival still gives a richly tense and starkly imaginative allegory to the coming end times, as paralleled by the inner demons of past trauma.
In her present state, she is a college professor of English. At one of her teaching sessions, the lecture hall is suspiciously low on students. There are alerts on their mobile devices about unidentified objects landing across the globe, each one shaped like a large perpendicular shell. This causes for mass evacuation away from these objects, with only authorized authorities supervising and investigating what they are and where they come from. At this point, it feels like a rip-off of classic alien invasion thrillers including Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Day the Earth Stood Still. While it certainly obeys the tropes for the most part, creative liberties are still taken to ensure an exhilarating experience.
Why did they land in these specific spots? That’s the question the American government is trying to answer as they conduct an organized approach to interacting to whatever thrives inside these things. Their solution in interacting with this unknown is to bring in Dr. Banks to apply her English knowledge, a highly discomforting task for her, as well as the audience. The unpredictability and danger that she is thrown into hits you right where you feel, especially when it comes time to approach the inside of this vessel.
Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) proves yet again how much skill he has in disorienting you without having to manipulate the screen with IMAX magic, as his choices of framing gives an overwhelming feel of scale in comparison to this unidentified object. The color palette used by cinematographer Bradford Young (A Most Violent Year) gives a stark feel of loneliness in a world separated by language barriers. The stressful sound effects complement the sad melodic music scored by Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario, The Theory of Everything).
Inside of the object, the gravity is perpendicular to our own; then at the end of the object, these eerie, faceless, squid-like lifeforms behind a white veil await the approach of human investigators. Dr. Banks leads the interaction with these beings, later named “Heptapods,” who communicate through painting abstract black rings that make up their language. So she, as a college professor, applies her history in English to vigorously study their language, which they call “nonlinear orthography.” The process in figuring out their form of communication is absolutely brilliant and inspirational in how it’s created and discovered.
As real as this small-scale epic feels, its treatment towards the other countries is still rather problematic. Essentially, they are treated like outsiders from America whose first resort is to rage war against the unknown, unlike those in the richest country in the world who rely on communication past language barriers to solve problems. Based on what I’ve seen in the news recently, this is not how things have played out.
There’s also an issue I have with the portrayal of Dr. Banks’ daughter, who is absent for a large portion of the film as if she’s not really that important to the story. If she were mentioned more consistently through the first and second acts, she would have strengthened the conflict between the key characters.
Yet the reminder of our relation with family issues and the passage of time may just as well be the push forward that we need to communicate with one another despite the inconvenience of language differences across barriers. It is through interaction and compromise that we will arrive at where we intend to go.
With the uncertainty about events due to our recent election, it is crucial for us to focus on communication with people who are different from us, either by language or by race or by disability.
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #49: Relationships Are Tough, Aspie or Not.
You don’t have to be a scientist to know that people have always historically feared interaction with people who are different (which some may know as Xenophobia). It dates back to when Whites decided to bring people out of Africa so that they can be used as slaves, and is still at work today with hate-filled social media trends.
While it may not ever be talked about online or in person, there is also a fear of interaction with those who are different based on their developmental disability. I should know, I have met some who were like that.
It’s understandable that we as humans would fear interaction with anyone different from ourselves: there is that blockage of finding common ground to understand and discuss, as well as languages and accents that hinder our abilities to understand the other. What makes it all the more different while talking with somebody with autism, Asperger’s, or Down Syndrome is that they see the world so much differently than anybody else, and their social skills are much less developed, that even forming small chat is exhausting for both parties involved.
It can turn out a number of ways: the individual with autism may be stuck on how to verbally express their thoughts (this is most common for myself).
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #45: They Can’t Explain What’s Bothering Them.
They can be overly blunt while talking to you, resulting in rudeness.
Six-Word Lessons on Autism Friendly Workplaces, Lesson #83: Being Blunt is Part of Autism.
They may even be so stuck in their own thoughts, that they rarely, if ever, look you in the eye.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #5: Do They Ever Make Eye Contact?
It sounds frightening to you if you are not on the autism spectrum, but it’s not that much different from interacting with somebody from another country. Think about it: their accents can at times make it difficult to understand what they’re saying, as they too may be unable to properly explain something with a second language. Their culture has different definitions of what constitutes polite behavior (some cultures believe that finger-pointing with an index finger is rude), which can explain why to you they come off as disrespectful. While taking in the new environment with entirely different rules in economy, street control, and dining, don’t be surprised if they take their eyes off of you in mid-conversation while noticing something that is to them out of the ordinary.
It’s a lot like in Arrival, the aliens that come in have such a different form of communication that is unlike anything we humans have ever seen, which means that Dr. Banks had to put in hours of research to figure out their perplexing language. Before they master this form of communication, the humans assumed that these were the War of the Worlds sort of aliens who are here for destruction. But once the language barrier was crossed, they learned more about why these beings are here.
Our social media era is both the best thing and the worst thing to happen to our form of communication. It has made it unimaginably convenient for us to interact immediately across the globe, but it has made it easier for the press to distort the way we look at whoever is different from us, leading to hashtag trends that encourage hatred and division. So in this time ahead of us, I want to stress the importance of us pouring our efforts into communicating with all people, those with racial differences, and those with disabilities.
- If you feel the need to protest for the causes you feel strongly against involving the lack of proper communication between different types of peoples, know that there is an acceptable and an unacceptable way of doing it. Example: acceptable would mean you point out the problem and take clear action. Unacceptable would mean you protest in hate-filled speech by making others feel guilty, and not pointing out any solution.
- If you are afraid of interacting with somebody with autism or any other developmental disorder, use pictures or other visual aids to communicate an idea. This actually works far better for the autistic individual in quickly understanding something.
- Likewise, for any one of you out there on the autism spectrum, try to use more visual aids to let others know what you’re thinking. I hear of people with ASD doing this all the time, with iPads and photographs and whiteboards they always carry around with them.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Arrival. Paramount Pictures. Web. <http://www.arrivalmovie.com/>.
Epstein, Adam. Finally, a Hollywood sci-fi alien movie with a linguist as the hero. Digital image. Quartz. WordPress, 18 Aug 2016. Web. <http://qz.com/832998/the-case-for-free-trade-open-borders-and-the-new-global-economy/>.
The Phobia List. Web. <http://phobialist.com/>.