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Arrival: A Response To Bad Movies


It was Stephen Fry I think who said: “A true thing poorly expressed is a lie.” It’s the theory that the language they speak determines how you think and… Yeah, it effects how you see everything. The point being that there is no thought without expression, no content without form that an idea however profound it feels to you does not really exist until you can write it down or in some cases put it on film. To watch Denis Villeneuve’s arrival is to watch a filmmaker in command of the language, his ideas presuppose just to say that he has a firm grasp on craft. I can’t really tell you how soothing this is for me as a filmgoer to feel that I’m in the hands of someone who knows why the film is constructed the way it is. So much of today’s filmmaking is all over the place to the point where the viewer has to exert themselves more to compensate for a lack of focus. In this way, I think Arrival is the perfect response to the bad movies we see so much of. Pretty much everything they do wrong arrival does right, it is effective and impactful and it does this by focusing on the very thing that affects and impacts us- language, but I think Arrival is just as concerned with the language of film as it is with written or spoken or alien language, for example the first couple scenes are kind of like an enlarged experiment in the kuleshov effect- the phenomenon in which a viewer derives meaning from two sequential shots that Hitchcock famously illustrated by turning a kindly gentleman into a pervert by replacing a single reverse shot Villeneuve does the same thing in Arrival, but on the scene level. The first scene is a montage of the birth and young death of Amy Adams’ daughter, the second scene is Adams coming to teach at her school on the day of the aliens’ arrival. Because of the tragedy we witness in the first scene and our assumption that the film’s timeline is linear we read Adams disinterest here as despondency and her general dry demeanor as one of deep sadness and heartache. It’s not until we finish the film and learn that the opening montage happens after the events of the movie, that we understand Adams in the second scene was merely a blank canvas that we attached meaning to. “Montage means the assembly of pieces of film which moved in rapid succession before the eye, create an idea.” What separates Villeneuve from many other filmmakers is his ability to generate ideas with cinematic craft then on another level mingle those ideas, collide and blend them to create a higher order of meaning. So what’s the meaning for example that Villeneuve suggests with this Kuleshov effect experiment, perhaps that the future can influence the past? That’s certainly a reasonable thing to derive from this kind of experience in the film, in fact it’s an idea that turns out to be the key to the climax of Arrival as Adams learns that the Aliens are higher dimensional beings that can see all of time at once, and uses that skill to access future events to influence her present. “I called you didn’t I?” “Yes, you did.” But you could also read another meaning from the same experience, namely that communication is limited by perspective. From our perspective at the beginning of the film everything tells us that Adams is grieving, only later do we learn that that wasn’t true. This too is a major theme of Arrival- the limits of human communication are reinforced and expanded upon in probe throughout the film, the limits of our biology of relying on what our senses report, the limits imposed on us by our culture or our own personalities. “Trust me you can understand communication and still end up single.” In conversation with the aliens communication is literally imagined as a screen- a mediator that blurs intention. Now screens can connect us, they can also divide us and it’s the same with communication. Communication is a link between two parties, but it’s a link that often facilitates split. “Language is the foundation of civilization is a glue that holds the people together, is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.” “We are falling asleep at the wheel people you know what I’m talking about I know you do.” What’s important here is not that both these readings are valid, they are, but that both have echoes elsewhere in the film and echo off each other, a theme once introduced isn’t wasted. The alien language is circular, so the film is too. The difficulty of cooperation in the small group at the Montana site echoes the difficulty of cooperation between Nations. Louise’s understanding of her displacement in time happens simultaneously with the audience’s realization that the events depicted aren’t linear. “Non-zero-sum game?” Every theme is filtered through other moments and characters and eventually other themes until it starts to feel like something solid, you start to think what is the relationship between language and time. Maybe it’s that the mind is not a thing, but a process, language happening in time, just like film is communication occurring in time. [Speaking Russian] So much of Arrival seems to be about the possibility of meaning in film. What is it? Where does it come from? I think Villeneuve imagines it as an alien spacecraft: mysterious, obscure, an expression that’s not quite written or spoken language, and so always difficult to decipher. Something when bored out of craft and character and story is always hovering over the film. It’s always in the background seen from different angles impossible to avoid. Arrival isn’t just a repudiation of bad movies because it leads by example. It’s also I think an act of exploration into what makes a movie great. It explores the kind of unique perspective that a film can gift to the filmgoer like a language gifted by aliens, and what kind of brand new world that perspective allows us to see. Hey everybody, thanks for watching. Happy Wednesday and happy Valentine’s day to my girlfriend who’s sitting right over there. Even though it’s a daylight I recorded this on the all-time stay so I love you baby. Anyway. Thank you squarespace for sponsoring this video. If you don’t know squarespace has beautiful award-winning designer templates for websites for your business so if you’re a musician or a restaurant, or whatever, Squarespace is the perfect all-in-one tool for designing a website for that It’s flexible the domain name is really easy, and you don’t have to know coding or anything and if you use the offer code- Nerdwriter you can get 10% off your first purchase, which is which is pretty cool. Anyway thanks guys for that, and I’ll see the rest of you next Wednesday, love you, baby.

100 Comments

  1. TheSaia93 Author

    Not gonna lie, arrival is the best Science-Fiction Movie i have ever seen. Not particularly the one i enjoyed the most, but the best one nonetheless.

    Reply
  2. Lewshwa Music Author

    I appreciate the attempt, but the circular framing device failed for this viewer. The whole movie was left hollow. Not sure why, but I knew we had flashed back, and so the whole movie became a vehicle for a ham-fisted love-loss story. Seemed to be a useful way to distract from not actually explaining the aliens.
    It's cool you found all of this in there, but I felt it missed the mark.

    Reply
  3. Alan Canon Author

    So well said, and I particularly relished the Tarkovsky quote. "Do you know yourself?" "Only as well as anyone does." — Solaris

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  4. Jupp Soetebier Author

    I do love this film. I've watched it repeatedly. I had it broken down pretty much the first time I watched it, but then I'm an artist trained to see. I watch it now as a moving painting.

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  5. thom grunauer Author

    I was so confused at first by the title of this video until i started watching. Now I feel more validated that one of my favorite films is seen so highly by others as well.

    Reply
  6. Michael Marffy Author

    Your wrong mate. I don't know how many times I've had to point this out…the narrative is not linear…I don't mean that the order is simply mixed up, I mean the story itself. So in the second scene, where Amy is respondent, it is because she HAS lost her daughter. It is also an event in her future simultaneously. It is the whole point of the alien language…non linear, the language unlocks time itself!

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  7. John Taylor Author

    One of my favorite movies of all time I've seen many many times now and never get bored. It's very emotional. I hope Denis Villeneuve has along life and makes lots of movies.

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  8. C Haz Author

    That was one of the better movies I've ever watched, I think you just aren't wired for it, if you think it was bad. That's you, not the movie.

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  9. Sameer Vankhede Author

    In first place director why show terrorist country like pakistan in this movie . They definitely terrorised the aliens. Lol

    Reply
  10. Der Fliegende Mocca Author

    i was in the sneak preview when this movie came out. And i really didnt like it sorry. I looked great, the sound was good, but the whole main idea, an alien that has a different view of time is pretty unbelievable. They communicate in circles so that a sentence has no start or beginning – sounds clever at first. but remember what how they communicate. They "spray" the sentence into the air. There is a "timeline" to this event. And also – as society evolves and language – there is no organic or logical way how this could happen. the first forms of communication with this "sprayhole" in your body would have been simple words, followed by longer words. There would never be any animal that would evolve into something like this. Also – even if its possible in theory to communicate like that – your partner needs time to read the sentence too. The better the language (again: as an intelligent species the language MUST evolve into more complex structures) the harder it gets to "instantly" understand the whole sentence. This way limits your depth in speech significantly. Your sentences cant have too many words (too big of an circle) and the words need to be simple (in order to recognize their shape within the others) and in the end even, it will be harder and harder to physically "spray" these vape nation language into the air. Also, there is no way for a younger alien to instantly get this right. They would start with one word, then two words, then four words without grammar until they can form a whole sentence. at which point do you think the parents would teach their child so stop stuttering and begin to fluently blast whole sentences into the air? Who decided this would make more sense or would be easier or prettier? Wouldnt that way of speaking require a lot of wisdom , because you need to look at every situation as a whole, as one big large concept and you would need to fully understand everything right before you spray? if so, how would older "wiser" people talk to younger less wise people? How would you teach someone the meaning of lets say "family" if they barely know any words?

    lastly, without the concept of time as a line, you are missing out important structures in your sentence such as "A and then B. But before all of that C" or "If you A, the you B". It is highly unlikely that anything they produced came to them as whole big concept. research showed, that the ability of speaking is close to the ability to enjoy and create music. rhythm is a function of time. technology needs time. time is everyones master, its basically the only thing we have no control over. historically time keeping was one of the very early concepts for humans in order to progress. you cant describe movement, progression, growth without time. It just doesnt make sense. The creatures are either impossible or are directly immortally created by a god, so they would work in that way.

    When the main idea of a movie is so heavily flawed i feel kinda stupid sitting in a cinema, watching a bullshit idea continue on and on. it annoys me to find problems of that idea every 5 minutes.

    Reply
  11. playandrepeat Author

    6:44 This was so performative. She's sitting right next to you, you could have said "Happy Valentine's Day, I lovey you baby" when you turned the camera off. You didn't even publish this on V-Day! You just need everyone to know what a ~nice guy you are, huh?

    Reply
  12. Alanna McGrane Author

    I have a slight curiosity of whether the radiation that Ian and Louise exposed themselves to in the ship led to the genetic disease that Hannah ended up dying from.

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  13. Yotam Avidar Author

    Kuleshov was demonstrated by kulechov himself in the first quarter of the 20th century, eisenchtein was the was who turned it into analytical montage

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  14. Cesar Author

    I was extremely baked for this movie, and I can't express how amazing that experience was. It was my first time trying moonrocks too. The experience was so otherworldly lol

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  15. Paul A Author

    I'm sure this content is golden, and I will watch it all at some point….but two minutes in and I just want to watch arrival again.

    There are too few movies this good.

    Reply
  16. mienzillaz Author

    You missed the fact that there was no timeline, that was the whole story of the movie. Thanks to alien language she wasn't limited to any particular moment, she could experience everything at once, her daughter birth, death, all conversations with her and so on. So she was in fact grieving in second scene.. just go and watch it again. Past happened because of the future and vice versa.

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  17. youhou2000youhou Author

    IMO this movie comprised the usual incredibly stupid """scientists""" team so it cannot be a good movie (or approaching this category)

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  18. Cooper Nickerson Author

    I have watched Arrival couple of time, brilliant ideas about alien language and their thoughts about time psychic. We think we can communicate linear with other aliens but it would be far more complicated.

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  19. drovid008 Author

    Someone help me find the exact version of the beginning song. Not the original "on the nature of daylight", but this exact one. With bass violin at the beginning right away. It's beautiful and I rly want to find it…

    Reply
  20. Youtube Freak Author

    I’d say that a true thing poorly expressed is simply a partial failure to express, or communicate, that truth.. The truth is still there… However, Arrival is the best Sci-Fi film I’ve seen in a looooong, looooong time.

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  21. A Name You Can't Remember Author

    Except that.. Arrival doesn't fare too well on a second view. Actually, it totally crumbles. And it has the biggest plot hole in the history of cinema because nobody has stopped to think what happened after any number of random people learns (because of the book she writes) the alien language that allows you to understand, think and act upon non-linear time.

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  22. Kevin Stoffel Author

    I absolutely agree. Many may disagree with me, but I truly feel this is one of the greatest films ever created. It impacted me personally, in a way that very few other media has.

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  23. EntoSanto Author

    It was a good movie. The perspective over the Alien language was mind blowing. I liked their idea that was used as a concrete for this movie. After watching it, I said myself that if we have encountered with extraterrestial life somehow, their language would've been like this. Of course we cannot be sure of any of it. But the whole thing of this movie left me a great taste.

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  24. Tank NDG Author

    Aliens that can’t speak English?? They spent years in space come no here but forgot to watch a Netflix show?? Google translater too good for them???? This movie was overrated!

    Reply
  25. Damonistique Author

    I love how this movie plays with our perception. First, the perception of time, and also the perceprion of space, when the scientists first get to see aliens and the up turns out to be the front.
    Makes you…believe?

    Reply
  26. CineBlogs Author

    This was a great video, i think you missed on opportunity to talk about how the characters assign meaning to the language in the film and how we as viewers assign meaning to film. P.S. Thank you for this channel. A new rabbit hole for me to get lost in.

    Reply
  27. elo pelo Author

    If we get deeply to theory about seeing future, it starting doesn't make sense. Our time is linear, so in the universe, every started action would be come to an end. Entropy wouldn't permit this. Realization about trueness of this means that we haven't free will at all. Scary true as from the big bang everything is predetermined, even in the small scale from our perspective.

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  28. Sena Sahini Author

    By the way, please remember to appreciate the source material of the movie, Ted Chiang's short story "Story of Your Life". Such a wonderful work, complicated and charming. The movie does a great job for sure, but the original text is something else.

    Reply
  29. Cubelarooso Author

    I don't get the big deal with this movie, it just did nothing for me. The story is nothing special, and any meaning you get out of it is just you confirming your own beliefs. That usually wouldn't bother me, people can like different things, but I take exception when the main character is a rapist that tortures and murders a child.

    Reply
  30. ItIsIP Author

    I haven’t watched this movie in a while and I honestly forgot how it ends and all that stuff. And people are saying they wished they could watch it for the first time over and over again sooooo, imma go Do that now and watch this video later.

    Reply
  31. nicole valentine Author

    So I waited to watch this movie until i had a couple of hours to fully dedicated it to it – I took your recommendation without watching the video, and I had the highest highest hopes for it. And it did not disappoint. Here I am after finally watching this film to watch your analysis- and I am shaken by how intelligent and beautiful this film is. I cannot put it into words.

    Reply
  32. Felix Morrison Author

    movie was actual dogshit. I understand the story, I just thought it was so forgettable.Also You take small words and try to make yourself sound smart and its really cringe

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  33. Daniel Author

    im too dumb for movies like this and yet i enjoy watching these movie analysis to make myself feel like a movie expert even though im usually not sure what youre talking about

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  34. ipsurvivor Author

    I haven’t seen Arrival but I’ll put it on the Library holding system like I do for most of what I watch now. I’m picky about films… 25th Hour… Missed the cut… got through about 45 minutes… Same thing with Legends Of The Fall… Okay I can see enough of where it was going… The brothers are going to compete over the only woman in the wilderness and the guy who cut off the bear claw is going to be in the triangle/quadrangle… Whatever…
    Some Movies that made the cut:
    On The Waterfront
    Psycho
    African Queen
    The Searchers
    Some Like It Hot
    Network
    Lawrence Of Arabia
    The Apartment
    The Godfather I & II
    VERTIGO
    Rear Window
    And lots of other ones

    Also I count “Better Call Saul” as Cinema… Some pure cinema has been made on Television… Even some shows from the 1950s are excellent in many respects.

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  35. Maureen Dullas Author

    After watching Arrival, I remember this novel I read two years ago, titled Slaughter House Five (or the Chldren’s Crusade) by Kurt Vonnegut. In the book, “Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time” and in one of his time travels, he met an alien specie called Tralfalmadores who do not see time as linear like we do. For these species, the past, future and present happens all at once, like a panoramic view. Billy Pilgrim wondered why they won’t help humanity since they know what would happen in the future, but they countered him and said “what difference would it make?”
    When Renner asked Adams “do you dream about their language?” I sort of thought that she became unstuck in time too, and did not think that she’s able to “see” the future. I think she “experiences” the future and then wakes up in the moment where she is, like Billy Pilgrim.

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  36. G. Confa Author

    Arrival is a shitty movie. Too pretencious with the language BS and the circular time idea. And they come to Earth cause in the "future" they'll need a hand from humans. Come on… I love Kubrick, Wong Kar Wai, Terry Gillian, and so on… don't tell me this boring as hell intent of scientifical alien contact with the most unlikely protocols and professionals is any value.

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  37. Chris Anderson Author

    I remember how excited I was watching this film because it was one of those rare films where you the watcher have sufficient information and insight to work out what is going on JUST before the film tells you. (Talk about meta.) The effect was that you have this OMG moment and that actually multiplies the tension 10-fold because you think to yourself "No way, am I right? Is this what is happening?". Then you spend the rest of the film in extreme excitement waiting to have your insight confirmed or denied by the film." A VERY powerful effect.

    Reply
  38. Mónica R. Author

    I agree, this film is a response to all bad movies, bad series. 😀 What would happen if you make a list of more films like this to help us save time when wanting to chose what to see on a week end and end up wasting time with another dumb thing to watch.

    Reply
  39. Konstantin Polyakov Author

    Saw this in theatres on a head of acid and WOW I have never been more utterly captivated. Watched the film many times since and it still amazes me.

    Reply
  40. ISpyaLie Max Author

    I can’t speak for everyone but by labeling it a repudiation of bad movies that makes me positive towards the film if that was really the case. No one should make a movie to repudiate bad movies it’s just arrogant and makes the film pretentious. As if it’s saying something it was never intended to say. And if that’s what it intended to say then that makes it a bad movie to me.It makes it all the more poorly timed because we seem to be living in a period where critics are entirely out of touch with what audiences enjoy. It has never happened in my life that I can recall where I actually look for Entertainment that critics hate and audiences love. When I go to see these movies these are the movies that I love as well. And I am finding the movies the critics love an audience is this like I just like them as well. Arrival did display a lot of craft. End it did explore many interesting ideas about communication. Explored a notion That scientists like Sagan postulated That aliens would be so very different from us that we would not be able to communicate with them because we are too different. This is a film that’s like vegetables maybe it’s good for you but It’s sort of the antithesis of fun. Fun isn’t always required but I love this film with annihilation which came out a little later. Both films explore science fiction ideas. The ideas are pretty weird and therefore emotionally distancing especially in light of the terrorism that plagues of communication. I would also give this a parallel to children of men.. I wouldn’t be grudge the film it’s nominations but I’m not disappointed the awards didn’t win.

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  41. Devin Michael Roberts Author

    I tell people about this film all the time, no one cares.. I've seen it 10 times probably. It effects me on a real emotional level. It's like a great novel mixed with a great soundtrack.

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  42. Jason C Author

    Excellent analysis. I understood you when you said it was soothing to watch a film in the hands of a very competent director. I recall feeling the same way during the first 5-10 mins of Collateral, and multiple times during Gravity.

    Reply

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