At first sight, Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 Arrival
seems to provide a fairly standard science fiction narrative about the landing of aliens on earth and the panic that ensues, featuring aggressive soldiers, a suspicious CIA man, brilliant scientists and rioting populaces. The film could be read as propaganda for the humanities as it is a linguist rather than a natural scientist who saves the world. The second narrative is more important, as acknowledged by the director: the main character Dr. Louise Banks’s mourning for her deceased daughter, Hannah. In contact with the aliens, she learns how to cope with this disastrous event, by acquiring a different perspective on how life proceeds and how time works. This is also where the film, subtly, tells a deeply spiritual narrative, in which Louise acquires tender competence to deal with what life brings, including Hannah’s death.
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