SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen the movie Arrival yet, skip this post until you have.
This is about the movie Arrival that I saw on Friday, November 11, 2016.
An unmarried linguist who lectures at a college has written a book with a new idea about language and how it influences society. She falls asleep and dreams of her life as a mother of a most wonderful daughter who tragically dies of a rare disease.
The aliens land at twelve sites that are not remarkable and have no relationship to one another. She is picked up by the government to be a member of a new team to communicate with the aliens’ vessel in Montana.
The aliens appear to be like cephalopods with articulated tentacles and starfish-like hands at the end of each that squirt out ink that they can force mentally into circular hieroglyphs.
The profound discovery she makes is that the circles contain, along their perimeters, shapes, each of them representing a word. When all words are taken together they only create meaning when their sentence does not exist in static time. So this is a secret to the way the creatures speak and maybe think.
All countries are working on communicating with the aliens, but they’re all afraid of each other, so they cut off contact. The linguist discovers that all twelve alien landing sites are communicating a different piece of the communication puzzle.
In the end, she goes in by herself to speak with the aliens and discovers that their way of looking at things, their consciousness is not linear, but like their writing involves sets of words, ideas, happenings that occur in what I set out in my Union of Opposites website as snippets, or clips of experiences, dreamlike.
She now realizes she can see now see ever more clearly into the future and this seems to bring a closure to her life. One of the last images is something the aliens left for her, a book she’s written about their language and intent. But the view she has involves a special celebration, a formal affair, thrown by the Chinese head-of-state who tells her he had to meet her. She was the reason the Chinese got the rest of the world to share their information about the aliens, their language, and their message.
She asks him how this came about—how he knew to trust her when she called him on the phone? The scene goes back and forth, ending with the physicist in charge putting his body between her and the US soldiers aiming at her.
Unbelievably she’s on the phone with the head-of-state, but still doesn’t know how she’ll reach him, so he’ll believe her about putting every country’s message together. He whispers to her that the first words from her mouth in Chinese are the last words his wife said to him before she died. Somehow we see the two become spirits under the skin.
Back in time, she relays the message and tells the general the truth that leads to the future. The future involves a gift, her book, setting out and explaining the aliens’ language.
She still had her life. It would cycle through a marriage to the lead physicist who had saved her life. They would have a child. A wonderful daughter, who would die of a rare disease. Her husband left her when she told him, because of the aliens’ gift of second sight she knew their baby would come down with the disease. So she and the daughter had to face their time alone. But this time more than her simple humanity was involved in the story of their lives. And one only guesses that this time her husband, the father of her child, the physicist, will stay till the end. Or was her initial dream prophetic?
I say the ending might be different from how she’d imaged it in the beginning, there are two wine glasses on the table in her home. A new beginning or a stage set error?
I believe the story’s left open-ended, or am I just an incurable romantic?