Communication: Thoughts on “Arrival”

This week I picked up Arrival on Blu-Ray.  I saw the film in theaters back in November and in my “year in review” for my favorite films of 2016 said this was my film of the year.  So needless to say I was excited to watch it again (as well as all the special features documentaries).

Arrival poster

At the heart of this film is communication.  Communication between humans and aliens.  Communication between humans to each other.  The importance of having good communication.  How bad communication can be ineffective or disruptive.  Communication can be something that unites or it can be something that divides.

The main character of the film is a linguist.  Dr. Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) is called in by the Army to help with trying to communicate with the aliens.  She is able to connect with the heptapods and after many times of meeting and struggling is able to develop a line of communication with them.  It takes time and patience to understand even the basic things that the heptapods are trying to communicate.

Louise also has to communicate with the Army to tell them why she has to be so basic with the heptapods at the start.  One scene that was apropos was when she writes on the whiteboard at the base “What is your purpose on Earth?” and then goes into description of how each word has to be understood (as well as understanding what a question is) before being able to ask the question to get an appropriate response.  But through the course of the film Louise and Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist (played by Jeremy Renner) are able to establish communication with the heptapods “Abbott” and “Costello”.

Arrival Louise and Ian

But it’s not just communication between the humans and the heptapods important in the film, communication between humans to each other is important.  We see the struggles between the Army and Louise and Ian.  We see it between different countries as they are sharing (or not sharing) info with their encounters with the heptapods.  We see it with the media reporting the news.  The disconnection between different countries almost lead to aggression and even to the bring of war.

We live in a world today where there is instant communication.  The internet and social media has connected people around the world in ways that were not imaginable a generation ago.  But even with this advancement in communication, there is a lot of miscommunication.  We can turn on the TV or turn on our computers and see a huge disconnect in people communicating with one another and that can lead to people getting hurt.

Even though Arrival is science fiction, there is a lot of truth in it.  We as humans long to connect with others.  But really connecting with people takes time and it’s messy because we’re broken.  Our sin makes us broken.  To really communicate is to open oneself up and share themselves.  Many times we’re scared to do that because in our vulnerability we are worried people will take advantage of that and hurt us.  It takes a level of trust to be open in communicating with someone and that comes through relationships.  Louise built a relationship with “Abbott” and “Costello” which by the end of the film not only affected her but the entire world and the heptapods as well.  She trusted the heptapods but that didn’t come overnight.  It took time and work and also sacrifice.  But in the end, that trust led to better communication.

Arrival is a very timely film and one that gets to the heart not only of who we are as people but what it means to be human.  To be human both in our virtues and our flaws.  The beauty in how God created us and the sin which hinders and hampers us.  How we struggle to communicate with one another and how that affects our relationships with one another and how we’ve been given a gift (in Jesus Christ) that can unite all people together.

I said before it was my film of the year last year and seeing it again reminds me not just how good it is as a film but how thought provoking it is.  It is a good reminder that communication is key and we all could do a better job of it.

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