I was too young to have seen Close Encounters in theaters, but once HBO put it into regular rotation in the early 80’s it quickly became a personal favorite. I’ve always had a thing for science fiction, especially when human and alien interaction is involved in a serious and realistic way. Close Encounters did this perfectly for its time and in fact still holds up pretty well in our CGI world. There has only been one other film to leave a lasting impression on me in the same way. Jodie Foster’s Contact.
What both films have is an appropriate sense of awe and otherness. They take their time letting silences linger so you actually have time to think about the films as you’re watching them. Some people may find this tiresome, but to me it is film making at its best. And this past weekend I saw a film that just may join this pair to create a triumvirate: Arrival. It has been called “one of the best movies of the year, a moving, gripping film with startling twists and imagery. It deserves serious treatment as a work of art.” and I couldn’t agree more.
I can not really explain the plot without spoiling the movie but I can say that it’s core idea is that language defines us, and the reality we experience. We all may be living on the same planet, but how our language is constructed, the actual grammar, matters in terms of how we experience the world around us. Suffice to say, communicating with an alien race brings these differences to the fore.