Societies across the world seem to be retreating into states of conservative nationalism and xenophobia. While recent events in the United States clearly highlight this movement in ways that are suddenly visible in mainstream U.S. media, it has been occurring for many many years. All of the civil/human rights and privileges we have gained over the last 100 years are in jeopardy of being taken away by a centralized government that has maintained a militarized police-force on domestic soil. In it’s own right this is not a negative thing, but once controlled by an extreme source of negativity and fear and then propelled by propagandist efforts, well… things can get scary.
Despite all the insanity of the past year, I’d like to point out that as long as we keep our wits about us, be active in our communities, and project positivity, we will succeed in our endeavors towards a better world. While that seems like a whimsical (and possibly naive) thought, I believe that we have the capability to overcome anything. Even our own tendencies toward hatred and malice are nothing compared to the strength of human will.
Speaking to the idea of human will: I watched a film recently that I sadly missed while in theatres. Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve and based off of “Story of Your Life” by award winning Science Fiction Writer Ted Chiang, was a welcome surprise. I thoroughly enjoyed this film for it’s interesting plot and hopeful, timely message. Themes of language, time, and unity pushed the story through its progression, but the most impactful theme for me was that of free will and destiny.
The protagonist of the film, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is confronted during the climax of the film with the realization that she is experiencing time differently than the rest of humanity. It is no longer a linear progression for her. Up until this point in the film we are presented with various cross-cut scenes that seem to be flashbacks and flashforwards in Bank’s life. It isn’t until the climax that we realize that these are neither.
Louise Banks is experiencing these cross-cut scenes in the same progression that the film’s viewers are. She is seeing parts of her life that have yet to occur. Only once she makes physical contact with the visiting alien population does she put things together and completely understand what is happening to her. She has been given a tool by this species: a way to understand time.
She then knows what she will do in the future and can easily make informed decisions based on her future experiences. This is important. She still must make these decisions.
Once she learns the phone number of the Chinese general bringing the human population to the brink of war, she still must still make the decision to continue on her difficult path towards saving the human race. She must still make the decision to begin a relationship with her partner, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), despite knowing that it would lead her to give birth to and raise a young girl who would eventually die from a painful illness. She made the decision to carry that burden of the pain and loss she would feel in the future, simply because she knew it was her path.
Good, bad, indifferent; the moments of her life are just that: the moments of her life. She could no sooner deny those present decisions as she could her past ones. In this way, the film portrays past, present, future as a singular moment. This acceptance and convergence of our understanding of the relationship between time and choice is something that seems to bring contentment to Louise Banks, and Amy Adams puts on a beautiful performance at the end of the film.
I loved this movie and I plan on taking some time to digest my first viewing, before watching it again. I have a feeling it will be one that I can continue to watch and gain something new from.