We Need to Talk: Language and Communication in the Martian and Arrival


Science-fiction cinema has a long history as the stage upon which political and social fears, both real and imagined, have been played out. Fear of the Other, be that a foreigner or a so-called Communist; fear of technology; fear of science. This paper explores the ways in which contemporary cinema responds to some of the most pressing problems we now face as a global community: – increasing isolationism and conservatism in the post-Brexit/Trump era, mutual suspicion, and even the threat of war between nuclear powers.Two Utopian science-fiction films, The Martian (2015) and Arrival (2016), posit that a need for international tolerance and transparency, and above all, communication, is essential to our success, and even our survival, as a species. I argue that the foregrounding of spoken language and communication in both films operates as the argument of both texts. The utopian outcomes of these films stand as a fantasy/wish fulfilment for populations who fear that the opposite is inevitable. Finally, by looking closely at the exploration of time in Arrival, I argue that it is the future itself (rather than the content of that posited future) which is the true object of paranoia: That which is unknown; that which cannot be properly predicted or controlled. Only by allowing ‘what is’ will we cease to be fearful of the future as Louise, the central character of Arrival, shows us.

Author Information
Simon Lovat, Independent Scholar, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: EuroMedia2018
Stream: Film Criticism and Theory

This paper is part of the EuroMedia2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon