The Film, "Arrival," and the Bootstrap Paradox

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  1. Genna East profile image80
    Genna Eastposted 6 years ago

    Recently, I had the privilege of viewing an extraordinary movie titled, "Arrival."  I've always been fascinated with the concept of time -- how we perceive it, the ways in which it binds us to memory and choice, and so on.  This film's plot, conceptions, elegance and thought-provoking elements and are enthralling.


    If you haven't seen this film, please don't read any further. 

    The purpose of this forum focuses on the following:

    The death of Louise's daughter is later told in both flash forward and flashback, simultaneously, when she begins to understand the language of the alien heptapods and experiences time differently.  Thus, the inference of the palindrome in the name, Hannah; the human boundaries of time; the importance of “nonlinear orthography"; "arrival" versus "departure"; how the circles of time in the written language of the heptapods (that do not leave a footprint) often never meet; and much more.  This also explains how the interior shots of Louise's living room and office are reminiscent of what we see and sense in the enclosed space capsule and what is beyond the partition separating the aliens from humans. 

    Louise (beautifully portrayed by Amy Adams), perceives her life in a moment -- not in linear time -- hence, what will be is in the now or what was.  For example, when she tells Ian:  "I know why my husband left me."  (and)  "I forgot how good it felt to be held by you." The culmination of this wonderful film reaches beyond the more simplistic explanation of determinism, and in choosing her life path while knowing the consequences of that choice. 

    "Arrival" does have a couple of weaknesses that are easily forgiven.  For instance, the physicist, Ian, had not even begun to experience a shift in the ways in which he perceives time after being exposed to the language.  Experts were also unable to surmise why there were twelve space craft, and why they were scattered across various regions around the world until much later in the film.  (For example, the number 12 is representative of how we partition our linear measurements of time.)


    The purpose of this forum is to discuss the bootstrap paradox:  Did Louise time-travel to that party to meet General Shang, where he tells her in Chinese his wife's dying words which Louise conveyed to him via a cell phone at the Montana complex 18 months earlier?  (The English translation: “In war there are no winners, only widows." ) Or, was it the other way around?   Did Shang time-travel?  Or, is there another explanation?

    1. always exploring profile image77
      always exploringposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      I want to see this film. I stopped reading when you said to stop. If you liked it, it must be good....

      1. Genna East profile image80
        Genna Eastposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        Hi Ruby.  I hope that sentence didn't seem too curt.  But I didn't want to spoil Arrival for anyone who hasn't seen it.  There is so much to this certain elements and details meld together have an assuming brilliance.  Even something as simplistic as the brief view through the windows in Louise's living room, and her office dovetail...well, I don't want to give too much away.   Have fun, my friend.  I'll meet you back here after you've seen it.  :-)

    2. Kathryn L Hill profile image77
      Kathryn L Hillposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      Bootstrap Paradox
      "The Bootstrap Paradox is a theoretical paradox of time travel that occurs when an object or piece of information sent back in time becomes trapped within an infinite cause-effect loop in which the item no longer has a discernible point of origin, and is said to be “uncaused” or “self-created”. It is also known as an Ontological Paradox, in reference to ontology, a branch of metaphysics dealing with the study of being and existence." … explained/

      I think she honed in her ability to receive the input. Perhaps she absorbed the power from the aliens in some way. Maybe just through interacting with them and observing/learning their ways and methods of communicating and thinking, (cyclically.)

      I agree it was an out-of-site movie. Its light and brilliance,
      (as far as plot, visuals and dialogue),) balances the other dark crap out there.

      I felt a little tricked at the end. The scientist just had to be her husband didn't he.
      We saw NO clues of their past relationship in their behavior throughout the entire film until the very end.

      Whitaker was way harsh.

      Arrival: based on the 1998 short story: Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. I would like to read this.

  2. Genna East profile image80
    Genna Eastposted 6 years ago

    Hi Kathy;

    Thank you for that great comment.  You nailed the definition of the bootstrap paradox perfectly.

    My interpretation of the origins of the relationship between Louise and Ian was that they met in Montana.  The clue was the Colonel (Forest Whitaker) in that he introduces them on the helicopter.  And they both would have had a file for TS clearance.  When the Colonel first comes to Louise's office, he mentions that her TS clearance from two years prior was still intact. And he never conveys any sympathy about the death of any daughter, or the existence of one.  I couldn't see her living room or office very well, but I didn't see any photos of Hannah anywhere.  (I could be wrong about this.)  What I noticed is how the view from her living room and the angle of us looking through the windows to what is beyond, brought to mind what they see upon entering the tunnel in the spacecraft, the partition, and Abbot & Costello -- not in the linear sense, but in the abstract.

    As Louise learns the alien language, she begins to perceive time as they do and is able to see the future -- not in linear time -- hence, what will be is in the now or what was.  For example, when she tells Ian:  "I know why my husband left me."  (and)  "I had forgotten how good it feels to have you hold me."   That the heptapod written words were represented in circles or semi-circles -- hence the circle of time -- was clever.

    I thought one of the weaknesses was that Ian did not begin to perceive time differently, but it would have skewed the plot dramatically had that been the case.  And it makes sense that Ian narrates the quandary that "experts" could not figure out why there were 12 space craft, nor why they parked in those locations across the globe.  (For example, when he contradicted Louise by saying:  “The cornerstone of society isn’t language (communication and mutual understanding) —it’s science.”)

    I think Shang is the one who maneuvered the time-travel at the party 18 months later, thereby exercising the bootstrap paradox, to 18 months in the past.  But I could easily be mistaken about this, and was wondering what other viewers thought. 

    Thanks again, for the visit.  I agree that Arrival is a terrific mind bender.  :-)

    1. Kathryn L Hill profile image77
      Kathryn L Hillposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      I love anything dealing with aliens. I imagine they are good, though. Never bad. Thats why this movie was up my alley. The were enlightened aliens trying to help us. So cool.

      1. Genna East profile image80
        Genna Eastposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        Hi Kathy;

        I haven't read the story but would like to.  I so agree with you about the aliens.  Their sounds remind us of whales, and how they propel themselves through their atmosphere as if through water.  Those gentle giants knew the explosion was going to happen, but stayed so that they communicate the final message; Arnold intentionally sacrificed himself in doing so, while saving Louise and Ian in those final seconds. 

        By the way, the language barrier also extended to filming.  The director, Denis Villeneuve, is French-Canadian and his English wasn't very good.  Renner and Adams talked about some of his direction cues that were "lost in translation" on The Graham Norton Show.  It was hysterical; I don't know how they kept a straight face while filming.  For example, after finishing the take of a scene from a particular angle, the director once told Amy, "Bon!  Now I take you from behind."  He tried to correct himself and said, "No, no, I take you from behind but with camera."  And instead of saying "focus," his pronunciation sounded like "fukus."  I laughed so hard, I had tears in my eyes.

        1. Genna East profile image80
          Genna Eastposted 6 years agoin reply to this

          Sorry, I meant to type Abbott, but typed Arnold by mistake.

          1. profile image0
            atsikelasposted 6 years agoin reply to this

            I believe she didn't time travel, she just obtained the ability to view the future. So she called general Shang and, so as to convince him to stop the attack as the "eggs" were not dangerous, she spoke his dying wife's last words.


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