Arrival, Monument of Science Fiction!

A few weeks ago, I was lucky to win a little film critic writing contest for a magazine. You had to write about what you considered to be the best film of the decade 2010-2020. The winners were published in a booklet and on the publication’s website a few days later in the form of a top 10 films to watch for containment.
I thought it might interest you even if the tone is … a little different from what I used to write!
^^ ’
I translated it and voila!

Good reading!

The wonderful thing about genre cinema is that it is infinitely renewed. Because if you tell the synopsis of “Arrival”, a priori, you will have the impression of having already seen this film a thousand times.

“Extraterrestrials arrive on earth but we don’t know what their intentions are… blah blah…”

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Contact”, “2001: a space odyssey”…
Yet “Arrival” is a film that was a breath of fresh air for me. An intimate film, with a mesmerizing staging that offers us a grand fable on inter-species communication and I would even say communion, and I am not talking about communion in the religious sense. “Arrival” is a film with a universal, timeless message that falls in almost none of the clichés associated with films of extraterrestrial invasions. And it’s rare enough to be highlighted. I say it right away, it was for me the best film of its last 10 years..

The story:

Overnight, mysterious extraterrestrial entities appear on Earth. For the moment, no sign of hostility in sight. Affine to decrypt the language of extraterrestrials to say the least enigmatic, The army calls on a linguist, played by Amie Adams who will try somehow to communicate with her beings of which everything remains to be discovered.

Even if Denis Villeneuve has already accustomed us to obscure films open to interpretation, “Arrival” is not a film which knocks you out with mathematical formulas or theories of quantum physics, as if to prove to you that it is a mature film, which must be taken seriously. Symbolism quickly takes over and the images speak for themselves.
This film is poetry.
Villeneuve purifies his staging to keep only the essentials, only what serves his purpose. Halfway between a blockbuster and an experimental film, “Arrival” enjoys an atmosphere that oscillates between light and shade. And you feel that disturbing strangeness from the first minutes, which makes it impossible to look away from the screen. I don’t think I have seen such an intoxicating film since Melancholia by Lars von Trier.

I do not intend to make a surgical analysis of this film, which as you can imagine raises a lot of subjects on different themes. I’ll only talk to you about what touched me personally. And it is so rare to have the impression that a film is addressed to us directly.

Because yes the aliens of “Arrival” speak to us, but what are their intentions?
Why are they there?

If the film takes its full interest when scientists enter the alien spacecraft, it is through the prism of the staging. In the era of triumphant digital, I think we all agree that even Hollywood studios have little to sell us when it comes to digital creatures, and it’s certainly not with glasses 3d that things will get better.
From “Jurassic Park” to “Avatar” or “Terminator 2”, our references are saturated with monsters always more detailed, imposing, always closer to the screen. And if there is one thing that forces my admiration for Denis Villeneuve, it is this knowledge of cinema, that which suggests more than it shows, in order to let our imagination fill the gaps, to keep us captive of its history. “Arrival” is Science Fiction in the noblest sense of the word.

Without speaking about the work on the architecture which is just breathtaking, the artistic direction of this film is in perfect adequacy with its story, and the arrival of its beings appears to each of us in a different way.
A spider, an octopus or simply a hand, a member, or simply an ink stain on a screen, the design of its creatures, rests only on abstract forms. This is a great idea that we owe to Denis Villeneuve. As Rorschach tests, it is up to you to decide what you see.

And there is a fine line between what can seem dangerous to you and what you think is very watchful. Everything is ambiguous in this film, until the end you never know how to interpret the actions of your creatures, and in my opinion, that is the main subject of this film.
We humans, the dominant species on this planet, we have created empires, civilizations. Master of a technology that is overtaking us, we even walked on the Moon! However, today we are still unable to talk to each other, knowing how to approach each other without going through a balance of power.
The character of Louise, will not simply communicate with her aliens, she will transcend her human condition to enter into symbiosis with them.
If this film speaks to us well about contact, He does it in the most natural way possible. And this contact, it goes above all through trust.
For me the key scene of this film is when Louise decides to take off her jumpsuit in order to show herself to the aliens. If a person is to represent humanity, then above all, he should not be governed by fear.

“Arrival” is a great film about language, both inside and outside of fiction. Like Louise, who never ceases to want to decode the meaning of these “hieroglyphs”, we spectators are also invited to decode each shot. If this film is not very talkative, all the iconic plans, push us to multiply our grids of readings, until the very arrival of the extraterrestrial vessels.
If we compare them to the aliens of “Independence Day”, aggressive invaders whose arrival on Earth, literally hides the sun, the aliens of “Arrival” opt for them in a vertical position and above all motionless, silent. They respect our living space. By levitating above the ground, high enough to not crush anything and just ready enough for us to enter.
Besides, we can see that the director is Canadian, because even if it can be fun from time to time with directors on the other side of the border, when there is something unidentified in the Heaven immediately war.

Gods, it’s nice to see a filmmaker shift even the code of science fiction cinema to present us with such an ambitious film. Because yes, “Arrival” is one of the most ambitious films of its last years. We are talking about a film that shows us that we can:

Open time!

So scertainly, we have already seen humans enter into psyche with entities with higher intelligence, to build but in hand a better world. But, if this film is inspired by a large number of references already cult for the most part, it sublimates them.
For example as a fan of “2001: a space odyssey”, I simply loved this scene where Louise explains to the army chief, the semantic ambiguity between the weapon and the tool.

Louise Banks: If all I ever gave you was a hammer …
Colonel Weber: Everything’s a nail …

What is “Arrival” for me:

“Arrival” is not a film that gets lost on the way. It’s not a film that starts off on a high note and doesn’t really know how to end.
It’s a film that arrives at just the right time in a particularly turbulent period in our history when humanity is taking a collective awareness that it is time to question our whole way of life.
In the genre of extraterrestrial invasion, “Arrival” represents the film of maturity.

If I had to compare it to another science fiction film, I would take “Contact” by Robert Zemeckis in 1997. Without too much spoiler, we see a young female scientist tempted to decrypt an extraterrestrial signal.
So even if the moral and the stakes are ultimately quite distant from Villeneuve’s film, despite all the similarities that are obvious, we hardly noticed that in the film of Zemeckis, the finality of the adventure, the outcome is based only on contact with the aliens.
Judy Foster looks at the sky, without worrying too much about what is happening below, while in “Arrival”, if the aliens came of their own will on Earth, it is not only to provoke the meeting, but also and especially to make us understand that before wanting to get in touch with the rest of the universe, it might be time to learn to communicate with each other.
It’s not a fluffy outcome, or a particularly optimistic one, because as the film says, if the aliens help us, it’s because they will need our help later. This is not a morality full of good feelings, it is an exchange of good procedure, because in nature, this is how it happens, and frankly, just for that thank you!

I realize that this review may seem a little solemn or pompous, but I’m sorry, I can’t moderate my enthusiasm at such a film. “Arrival” has been admirably received by both critics and the public, and that’s important. These are exactly the kinds of movies that Hollywood should encourage in production.
So no, personally, I do not want to see a filmmaker as promising as Villeneuve make suites / reboots / prequels / my ass … To know that my grandchildren will have nothing to do with cinema as “Star Wars episode 89 “And” Terminator 28 “makes me pissed off.
It’s a film like “Arrival” that should make the event, and I’m glad that this film has the success it deserves.
With that, I wish you a session and a good day and always keep in mind:

“In this universe, we never create anything, we only make this memory. “

11 thoughts on “Arrival, Monument of Science Fiction!

  1. It’s truly a wonderful film, as often with Villeneuve I’d like to say. Sicario, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, Prisoners, all great films, with interesting characters and atmosphere. It’s the case here, and it’s probably one of his best films, as well as one of the best science fiction flick of the last decade, totally agree on that.
    I don’t know if you’ve seen Blade Runner 2049, but even if it’s a sequel, it’s a strong film again. The atmosphere, the cinematography, the themes and emotions. Just wonderful again. Maybe just a bit too long for the general audience, almost 3 hours. Even if his next film is a new adaptation from the book Dune, I’m curious to see what he’ll do with the source material.

    Anyway, great post! (and also thank you for following my blog, I really need to try writing more posts in English haha).


      1. Oh tu parles Français ! J’étais justement en train de lire ton passionnant article sur le Dune de Lynch (un film très important pour moi, puisqu’il est le film qui m’a fait passer aux visions en Version Originale, et qui m’aura fait découvrir le cinéma de David Lynch).
        Je te conseille vivement Blade Runner 2049. C’était très casse gueule de s’attaquer à une suite du monstre de Ridley Scott, et il s’en est sorti haut la main. La photographie de Roger Deakins (Sicario, Skyfall) est magnifique, la musique de Hans Zimmer parfaite, et les acteurs excellents.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. je vais bien finir par avoir le courage de m’y mettre haha!
        Moi je suis en train de lire ton article sur Lifeforce, film que je découvre alors que j’aime bien Tobe Hooper! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. S’il le faut, je te le rappellerais toutes les semaines jusqu’à ce que ce jour arrive haha !
        Alors je te conseille ce film. Comme Dune d’ailleurs, imparfait, soucis de production, de scénario, de rythme, mais il y a quelque chose, une ambiance, une imagerie particulière. Et ce cachet années 80 que j’aime tant. Mais désolé pour Hooper, je déteste son Massacre à la Tronçonneuse 2 que beaucoup de gens semblent adorer (ne me frappes pas haha).

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      4. je ne dirait pas que je l’adore mais je l’aime bien quand même. Mais je pense que c’est plus de la nostalgie de l’ambiance dans lequel j’ai découvert ce film, plus que pour ses qualités intrinsèques.
        c’était mon premier film d’horreur, je l’ai vue jeune ado en cachète avec des amis, ce petit goût d’interdit à due lui donné un cachet qu’il ne devrait pas mérité à mes yeux.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Possible oui, la nostalgie joue toujours énormément. Après les goûts et les couleurs, surtout avec ce genre de métrages partant dans un humour assez loufoque, car l’humour est très personnel, personne n’est réceptif à la même chose.
        Je suis un peu jaloux par contre de cette ambiance de films découverts en cachette, j’ai découvert ce genre de films très jeune grâce (à cause ?) de ma mère, donc pas besoin de se cacher, quand à moins de 10 ans, tu as déjà vu The Thing par exemple. Le seul film vu en cachette fut Orange Mécanique de Kubrick, mais bon, je parle et je m’égare là.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Vue que tu regardais des films d’horreurs librement j’aurait pensé que tes films vus en cachètes auraient été plus osés qu’un Kubrick! XD

        Liked by 1 person

      7. C’était à cause de toute la polémique autour, et du fait qu’il était plus ou moins interdit en France jusqu’à sa première diffusion à la télévision en 1996 (j’avais juste 10 ans). L’interdit m’a donné envie, la polémique et l’interdiction du film ont fait que j’ai du le voir en cachète, mais ça s’est su, forcément haha! Dans le même genre, on m’avait interdit de voir Tueurs Nés de Oliver Stone à sa sortie, et j’ai du attendre le dvd pour lui snif!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Je ne pensais pas que la sensur française pouvait être aussi stricte. Au danemark pour ce qui est de l’horreur ou du gore c’est plutôt très ouvert.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. C’est plutôt compliqué ici. Disons que la censure Française, dans la plupart des cas, suit la censure US. Orange Mécanique tout comme Tueurs Nés ont eu pas mal de souci de justice, et donc la polémique a suivie en France.
        Dans le cas de l’horreur et du gore par contre, nous sommes très ouverts. Sauf quand une certaine association qui s’appelle Promouvoir tente de retirer des films des cinémas car ils les jugent trop violents (ou sexuels). Ce fut le cas pour Saw 3D (pourtant pas pire que les précédents niveau gore), Antichrist de Lars Von Trier, et quelques autres films, dont certains incompréhensibles. Ils ont tentés de retirer des cinémas Les 8 Salopards de Tarantino par exemple, mais n’ont pas réussis.

        Liked by 1 person

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