The highlight is the design of the alien language with the aid of Chinese culture.
One typical nature of science fiction films is that it is very burning for the original authors, the film makers, and the audiences. Without sound and image, sometimes the original works are more unreadable. Take Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang for an example, in the story a nonlinear time language thinking model is constructed. The story about the communication between humans and aliens focuses on the most basic thing: Language. In the writing, the language of the alien seems to be a living creature. No one has ever made the language so detailed and charming. The unexpected but destined end gives the reader a great impact. Well received as Chiang’s short fiction works are, they have won four Nebula awards, four Hugo awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, four Locus awards, and others.
Story of Your Life is put on screen in 2016, i.e., Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Tzi Ma. The film reconstructs the story of the original work that is beyond imagination. The rigorous logic, mysterious atmosphere, and unusual scientific theory give audiences tremendous shock. First, the octopus-shaped visual extraterrestrial creatures present a mysterious terror in the combination of music and environment. As the story progresses, the strange alien shapes somehow make people nonexclusive. Alien aircraft modeling is also very different and textured. With the strange sound effects, the effect is odd and good.
From the perspective of pure Linguistics, the film discusses relationships between different species and individuals, the paradox between linear time and free will, and the collision and fusion of thinking patterns in different language systems. The film is a response to today’s society i.e., the importance of communication. This is the exquisite part, the design of the alien language. In former science fiction films, all aliens speak fluent English, or make strange ah hum sound. Based on the description of the original story, the visual language of the seven-limbed aliens that is rich in meaning is very imaginative. Using the brush painting style in Chinese culture, language image that is artistic and corresponding to Chinese cycle philosophy thought is created, which makes the film successful.
The Chinese brush painting and Philosophy thought.
In the film, the alien language is shown in the way of visual Chinese brush painting, which is creative and imaginative. Just like Chinese characters written in square, the alien words are written in circle. With the mixture of water and ink, the alien language expresses the meaning in the painting image that is an amazing work of art if without the bizarre and horrible background of alien war.
The Chinese brush painting, the picture drawn by regulating the concentration of water and ink, is a form of painting. More often, it is considered as a traditional Chinese painting. The basic brush painting uses water and ink, painting in black and white. The advanced brush painting includes colorful flowers-and-birds painting. The latter is also called as color ink painting. As the unique materials, Chinese brush and Chinese ink mixed with water, and depending on the amount of water, could be divided as thick ink, light ink, dry ink, and wet ink, and different shade level as black, white, and ash could be drawn. There are two major features. One is the artistic effect of complete blend like milk and water in a flowing and lucid style, because of mixture of water and ink in the dense-and-thin level drawn. The other is that it is fit for analogous and ambiguous image feature that gives people rich imagination, and it is the most fascinating artistic conception.
Below is a typical Chinese brush painting. You can see why the alien language in Arrival makes great success.
The film uses the circle to present the mystery with the Chinese philosophy thoughts. The circle, which has a close relation with Chinese cosmic consciousness and sentiment of life, is an important circle of spirit in traditional Chinese philosophy. And it is the factor that cannot be ignored in revealing the secrets of Chinese art life. The circle, without protruding and defect, has no start and no end. Standing in the center of it, you will have no direction, and the results are the same in every direction. The circle is the same in both sides, and it exists in all things in the world. All these construct the basis of Chinese thinking and observation of the world, from which they gradually form the philosophy thoughts.
The circle also can be seen in many ancient Chinese cultures in different areas. Below are some cultural relics found in different Chinese cultural areas. With the help of the circular cultural symbols, the design of the alien language is made.