Arrival has been nominated for 8 Academy Awards and every nomination is well deserved. Especially the nominations for Best Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Film Editing and Cinematography. The suspenseful sci-fi is out on DVD and blu-ray and thanks to Paramount we received an advance copy to review the bonus features.

Xenolinguistics: Understanding Arrival
Arrival is an adaptation of Ted Chang’s short story “Story of Your Life” which poses the question, if you knew the future and couldn’t change it would you still go forward with it? The story made the director think and feel. Makes the reader wonder: Do you chose love even if it ends up in heartbreak? What would be your relationship with life, love., friends and society. Sci-fi has a lot of tools to explore our reality. It created tension and drama in the process of the translation. The plot requires a willing audience to embrace sophisticated ideas and says a lot about the disconnection amongst society. The lack of communication and narcissism we reside in. Amy Adams was the first choice in casting the lead and it the story is being told from her point of view. Throughout the film the crew consulted with a linguist to make sure the depiction of the translation was accurate.

The crew discussed coming up with a new version of a spaceship. It was important to be authentic. They came upon using a ship shaped like a pebble that seemed ominous. Working with laws that defy gravity. The featurette also described creating the alien forms as a heptapod. Designing their body language, how they write and how they behave. They also created the language as an intricate and layered process. Every curve and bend within the shape could create a new intention from the word beings a question to showing hesitation.

Acoustic Signatures: The Sound Design
Sound is like a character. It’s a language.
The most powerful sound is silence. It is needed to create a mood but must also be clear so as not to not overwhelm the image so the sound won’t take away from the scene. Sound helps because it opens the door to a new level of perception. No electronic sounds were used in the film because the production wanted more of an organic sound.

The sound team explored how to design the sound of the extraterrestrial which was interconnected with the design of the body. It needed to sound intimidating but intelligent and graceful with a sacred sort of feeling. It also needed to create a sound difference between Abott and Costello (the 2 creatures).

Eternal Recurrence: The Score
The score was inspired by the visual design of the logograms and the circular way of how they communicate.

Layers of piano were recorded and played at different speeds adding layered vocals on 16 tracks of analog tape at different speeds. The crew had to make sure that there was space for the music and voices and sound effects so everything worked together cohesively and didn’t overshadow each other.

Nonlinear Thinking: The Editing Process
The editors restructured the movie so it felt less linear. Editing scenes to drive home the needed point and guide the viewer to understand the twist in the film. Helping them go back to what they learned at the beginning to understand where the story is going to end.

Principle of Time, Memory and Language
Finally, the film crew dove deep into the science behind the principles of time memory and language. Taking inspiration from various theories in linguistics and the science world had a big part in the making of the film.

Overall, Arrival is a unique twist of contact with other creatures than we’ve seen before. Adding the layer of language and how communication affects us as a whole is one of the many reasons the film received so many nominations. The behind the scenes opene up and explain the main concepts in such a great and unique way that you will want to watch the film again just to see the ideas and concepts being put into use.

The Science of 'Arrival' -Bonus Features Review
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