Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Arrival (2016)

1 comment :

Full spoiler ahead.

Sci-fi have long history since (arguably) the epic saga of Gilgamesh, but by general consensus, it became popular due positivism spirit around 1800. Industrial revolution has brought us to another level of material manipulation, so to speak age of enlightenment has decorated humanity with glamorous futuristic possibilities. By this, early science fiction generally talks about machine [tools] and adventures [exploration] that depicted (notably) by Vernes's and Well's. It had particular amount of philosophical questions, but still focused on exploration that rooted on human curiosity about unknown universe. Recently, humanistic issue and nature of human thoughts has became more central in sci-fi theme.

From the creator of Enemy (2013) and Sicario (2015), Denis Villeneuve has been acknowledged for his artistic suspense and twisting narrative form. Both of his notable film has made its own name and portrayed his authenticity. It's somewhat refreshing to see popular movie that works as puzzle since Nolan's, with unbearable tension that resembles hitchcock's. Now, Arrival (2016) took place in sci-fi universe, which have its own risk of being pretentious and decorated by deus ex machina complexes.

The first hour was terrific. Louise and Ian (the best aryan linguist and astrophysic) were brought to alien spaceship that shaped like splinted coffee bean. Gravitational anomaly had made epic entrance from the start. Approaching the room, where the dialogue take place, is a reminder of Stalker sacred room where everything could happen. The barrier is a nice touch of separation, which work as mistery glass to keep audience at the edge of seat.

The process of dialogue also impressive. Alien and human exchanges language through combination of textual and gesture approach. Louise attempt to translates them also interesting, It’s satisfying to find another form of linguistic method.

As the film goes on, we are being haunted by fragmented memories of a kid. Some sly audience, whom familiar with this type of movie, or having known enemy, must by now aware of this Chekhov gun's technique. This is the axis, this will be back and completes the movie altogether. 

I almost hope that it isn’t true, but it happened.  

At first, we would consider that this fragment’s portrayed louise past. But, memento has teaches us that it's a mere trap (At this point, i would argue that watching movie with assumption is a banal move). 

Villeneuve's most interesting arsenal is using memory in perpetual motion. Like memento, we've first learned the story of kid in linear. The kid grown, then died by cancer. Then, on second layer we understand louise relationship with the husband (whom I thought was Gavin because of hint of divorce). It was repeated until I questioning myself, what’s its significance? 

At the point of synthesis (where louise handshaking the alien), it hits me that it’s not the past. Its hinted from Louise expression that isn’t a relief, plus her question about the identity of the kid. 

So it goes, said the tralfamadore. 
One of the best sentence I’ve ever came across in a literature.

For whom had watched, or better yet, read The slaughterhouse V, Arrival manifest the same idea. One of many thing that I respected from Vonnegut, is how he brought philosophical discourse of hegelian dialectic and Camus absurdism in a form of satirical science-fiction. 

Science fiction itself for me is a hard genre. Plotted wrong, you end up with robotic fables. A good science-fiction bear to questioning futuristic possibilities and spoke brave questions about moral architecture that one cannot endure to even imagine in planetary scale. Vonnegut told them with a poker face and cigarettes on one hand. 

Tralfamadore, is an alien species that created by Vonnegut, which perceive time differently from us. They see times as movement which enable them to grasp future and past objectively. What matter to Tralfamadore, is to sustain life of its own species without any unnecessary intervention. Individual choice or free will, being counted as unnecessary act. They are, in harsh word, are pure deterministic beings. 

Too bad that the movie tend to end in hurry. As the answer unfolding, we already know where it would go. Early problem regarding chaos, was solved with simplistic solution; collective cooperation, which had subgoal to portrait how barbaric and intolerant some country is. The rest of scene became flat, might as well as how Tralfamadore perceive life. 

A good puzzle movie tend to appear as modular object, where we could re-questioning the meaning and its part in detail. A colossal puzzle for me was primer, a huge superimposed timelines where you need to assemble multiple layers from a movie that only have 1 hour playtime. Arrival was a good puzzle, but not a great one. It has one answer, and being told plainly in the end. In a little cinema with few number of people watching with me, nobody clapping nor having question. The secret have been told, thus the value had been lost. 

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