Arrival (2016) | Harder than saving the world.

The Message from the aliens doesn’t fudge with the earth so much.

The spaceship of Heptapods looks like a dried mango doesn’t it? For this time I’m gonna react to the film Arrival, and must be spoiling for someone who hasn’t watched it.


Here is Japanese version of the trailer. The linguistic discovery part is hidden and emphasized on the gun powdered scenes. Some Japanese people who really don’t watch or read might estimate this film as another The War of the Worlds. I was invited to watch this film by my friend from university, who studied Linguistics with me, so we were excited to see how linguists can take the part of such an epic sci-fi film.


Paramount Pictures


To be honest, the linguistic part was not satisfying much for me. Sapir-Whorf hypothesis1, which described as the greatest basis why the protagonist could acquire the ability to remember the future, has been criticized and mainly considered not to be true, and that was an undergraduate lesson. So I felt it wasn’t convincing enough. I haven’t read the original book so there might be more explanations but just watching the film (or subtitles are missing), I wanted it to have more confident reasons. Also, the letters of Heptapods aren’t surprising since Japanese language has both Logograms and Phonograms.  It’s true that Japanese people are aliens because of the language and also the tentacles.

Even if the linguistic element was not satisfying, I enjoyed seeing it centered in the feature film. What this film really amazed me more than the language was that it was about amor fati. Amor fati (Love of Fate) is the idea Nietzsche insisted, to love your fate including not only joyful time but also suffering aspects. It doesn’t mean to find your lover of life. Nietzsche said that human race is in between of animals and superhuman, and must be overcome the pain of eternal recurrence2.


Paramount Pictures


Learning Heptapod’s language, Louise realizes she can remember her future. The past affects the future, and the future affects the past. She is trapped in the time of circle like Heptapod’s letter and the eternal recurrence. In the future her daughter blames Louise that she gave born to her knowing her daughter won’t live long. The pleasure of spending life with others and the pain of losing it, even though Louise knows everything awaiting for her, she answers YES to proposal for marriage. This YES is not only indicating the love to her daughter, but she is saying YES to her own life. I felt that the title Arrival must not just be saying the arrival of aliens but also the arrival of the age where human beings can overcome the eternal recurrence.

The arrival of Heptapods surely messed around the world but Louise solved it smoothly. More than the world, the question was whether you can say YES to your life or you can’t. This film seems like an earth-scale epic story but truth is this is literally the story about your life.



Arrival (2016)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Screenplay by Eric Heisserer
Based on “Story of Your Life”
by Ted Chiang

Amy Adams
Jeremy Renner




  1. The Idea that languages can effect on thoughts. On the strong position, it states that language makes cognition of the world. For an extreme example, a speaker of a language which doesn’t have the word indicates “blue” cannot recognize blue.
  2. The world view that life is like a videotape and you must live your life over and over again in the exact same way you live. I love and hate this idea. Please someone save me.

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