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CHAMBRE CINEMA: Thinking beyond human

The science fiction genre in cinema represents a great challenge to the rational and

scientific logics of our thought structure, displaying technological, futuristic, timeless or

extra-human imageries, they give us the opportunity to explore our human reality

from a perspective that overwhelms us and questions us, constantly.

Science being generally the axis around which these narratives revolve, the greatness

of these stories lies in the possibility of confronting ourselves with the unknown of our

individual and social "preconceived" reality to transcend into different and new ways

of thinking about the world and thinking about ourselves, within ourselves.

"ARRIVAL": Are we bounded by time?

Denis Villeneuve is a Canadian director and writer named in 2019 the filmmaker of

the decade by The Hollywood Critics Association, his cinema is distinguished by

themes that allude to diversity, transculturalism and multilingualism. Formed under a

variety of productions such as Incendies (2010), Prisoners (2013) or Sicario (2015)

Villeneuve explores both the cycles of violence and destruction as well as the tragic

beauty in the relationships of humanity with technology and nature of Blade Runner

2049 (2017).

Based on the novel Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang's (1998), Denis Villeneuve

creates Arrival (2016) to build a science fiction cinema that unfolds through layers of

meaning, carefully proposing the construction of temporality and the poetics of his

evocative images, step by step he leads us to intensely experience two simultaneous

stories, one intimate and one universal, which merge to form a deep sense of

purpose, freedom and the meaning of existence.

Arrival opens with a brief but intense sequence of Dr. Louise Banks' (Amy Adams)

emotional memories from the birth to her daughter's untimely death from illness. The

evident melancholy that accompanies her is interrupted by the news of the

appearance of 12 spaceships on earth that are scattered in different parts of the

planet the army assumes the task of establishing a communication link with the aliens.

with the sole objective of knowing the true intentions of this arrival; the purpose is to

protect world security from the uncertainty of a supposed danger to humanity.

Arrival (2016) © Paramount Pictures

Therefore, they go to Louise, who being a multilingual teacher can help them

decipher some language in order to communicate with them, and to a scientist Ian

Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to carry out this mission while the scientific gaze in the

search for answers insists on establishing a theoretical logic as an approach to the

unknown, unlike Louise, whose only tool is language. "Language is the foundation of

civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in

a conflict", says Ian, quoting the first sentence of Louise's book, and he continues,

"Well, the cornerstone of civilization isn't language, it's science".

More than a simple story of alien invasion, Arrival meticulously reveals Villeneuve's

true proposal, through a delicate and precise flow, of apparently isolated flashback

moments, we begin to deepen to experience the multiple meanings that emerge

throughout the story; which is to understand, structurally and philosophically that the

way we think, live and relate to reality is predetermined by the language in which we

communicate, according to this Louise explains it with great simplicity, before wanting

to solve any problem we must allow ourselves to observe and begin in a way that is

the most basic and simple act like speaking, saying "Hello".

Arrival (2016) © Paramount Pictures

The aliens, seen as the "other" suspend us before their own occurrence, it is then that

we need to take on the challenge of stopping thinking univocally according to our

perceptions and prejudices as oneself and proposing different elements and strategies

of dialogue to achieve an encounter as we face the unknown.

The first rupture appears with the configuration of the language of the hectapods,

which unlike the linearity of human grammatical rules, it is visually configured, looking

like more signs than language that emerges from circular ethereal images, that have

no beginning or end, implying a challenge to the perception of the order of time in

which instant concentrates temporality.

Arrival (2016) © Paramount Pictures

This analogy of language and the perception of time operates as a new possibility of

existing in time. Opening up to a new reality means deconfiguring one's perception of

time and its order, it is the possibility of breaking down the barriers that allow the

future to interweave itself in the present and offer itself to us as the opportunity to

accept, with conscious freedom, that perceiving ourselves from the imminent finitude is

the only thing that allows us to live the reality of our present with intensity.

Arrival (2016) © Paramount Pictures

The main question Louise asks while in the memory of her future is: "If you could see

your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things? "

When we manage to clearly understand the direction of the film, it is the precise

moment in which we realize that this whole story is talking about the order of time as

a way of existing, that we live trapped in the mental configuration of a time in which

we strive to project our reality, that like language, we conceive everything with a

beginning and an end that we believe to build and that our future is something that is

not yet real. However, rather than surrender to a greater purpose from which we

escaped, the real question is whether are we willing to freely accept the life that

awaits us, knowing in advance which is the path that will follow? Does knowing the

future affect our free will?

Arrival (2016) © Paramount Pictures

Perhaps it is the opposite, facing our own finitude does not mean living in the face of

imminent death, the true meaning is living in the present that each one of us carries,

not allowing the past that has brought us here to hinder our path, either, that the

future that has not yet arrived paralyzes our steps. By accepting death as a process

of life itself, humility represents the contact with our own true nature, which is trusting

to embrace life, a life that is common to all human beings as long as we exist through


Arrival (2016) Photograph: © Paramount Pictures

Words: Judith Sacal

Pictures: Arrival (2016) Photograph: © Paramount Pictures

We do not own the rights to any of the pictures in the article. All the rights go to the authors of the pictures.

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