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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Arrival



This week's movie rental was Arrival ...

a 2016 American science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve. The screenplay by Eric Heisserer was based on the 1998 short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang. The film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.

Here's a short video from the WSJ that explains the plot (a trailer is at the bottom of the post) ...



The film has received great reviews. Here's the beginning of the review in The Atlantic ...

The Epic Intimacy of Arrival

Arrival, the remarkable new film by Denis Villeneuve, begins aptly enough with an arrival—though perhaps not the kind you would expect. A baby is born, and her mother, played by Amy Adams, explains in voiceover, “I used to think to this was the beginning of your story.” We see the girl’s life, in flashback—games of cowboy, arguments, reconciliations—as her mother continues, “I remember moments in the middle ... and this was the end.” We see the girl, now a teenager, in a hospital bed. Then we see the bed empty.

The sequence—a brief life encompassed in still briefer summary—is surely among the most heartbreaking since Michael Giacchino’s magnificently versatile waltz carried us through the “Married Life” segment of Up. And while at first it appears to be mere backstory for Adams’s character, it is in fact much more, perhaps the most crucial thread in Villeneuve’s intricately woven film ....


For those who haven't seen the film yet and who don't want everything revealed beforehand, don't read any further because there will be spoilers .....

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The basic premise of the film is that learning a new language can change the way you think ... linguistic relativity (the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis) ...

[it] is a concept-paradigm in linguistics and cognitive science that holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers' cognition or world view. It used to have a strong version that claims that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories. The more accepted weak version claims that linguistic categories and usage only influence thoughts and decisions.

And as Louise learns the aliens' language, she starts to think so differently that she becomes precognitive and sees visions of her future. It takes her a while to understand what's happening to her, that she's seeing her future and not her past. And then we get it too ... she hasn't been a mother whose daughter has died, she is going to be a mother whose daughter will die. Abd that gives her the chance to make a choice .... does she want to say "yes" to making a baby with her newly met co-worker Ian, knowing that child's life will be cut short and that her then husband will leave her? She decides to do it.

I think part of the reason we take chances and do risky things is because we don't really know what the future holds and how things will turn out. Most people are hopeful (or just lack imagination) ... I saw a study once that showed that people were much more hopeful about the future than was realistic. How many of us would choose to live through a particular future if we knew exactly what it would be, exactly how it would feel? Maybe it's better not to know.

More: All Your Questions About the Mindbending Plot of Arrival, Answered


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