Dear Denis Villeneuve (Director of "Arrival")
I went to see your movie yesterday. Somehow, it's central premise on non-linearity has prompted me to share my reflection here. There will be two parts. Probably three. This is part one.
So here we go.
Dear Mr. Villeneuve,
In the movie, the main character, a linguist by the name of Dr Louise Banks (played superbly by Amy Adams), experiences flashes of her future while trying to decipher a non-linear visual language used by two aliens in the movie. This can be a good excuse for you (also your screen writer and editor) to jump forward and backward in time as the story unfolds. Many film directors have done this. Yet for me, jumping forward and backward in time along a single narrative (storyline) trajectory, is still very linear.
After the initial excitement at the beginning and most of the earlier part of the movie, I thought that it was going to go non-linear all the way. It didn't.
That left me wanting. Nonetheless, I understand that it is not an easy task to fully infuse non-linearity in a film since it is still predominantly taken by the mass audience as a linear form of language and communication. Pete Travis mildly tried it in "Vantage Point", Nolan in "Interstellar". Your film may end up having multiple screens, each with different stories or stories within stories that may cross paths at some points, with many narrative trajectories, many uncertain probabilities or possibilities, all taking place simultaneously, without a singular ending. It may turn to be schizophrenic. But that is partly what non-linear meant to me.
Dear Mr. Villeneuve,
Some people would probably ask, what's the big deal about non-linearity, especially in relation to your movie.
The big deal is that we don't need an alien invasion to be introduced to a non-linear language and communication. That is my big deal about non-linearity.
Ya, we can discover such language in our own backyard, here on planet Earth. Such language (in various forms of visualization) has been around in many ancient civilizations and spiritual traditions since more than 2500 years ago.
Non-linear language has been obscured by the conditioning that we have received from the predominantly linear forms of modern language and communication.
So where can we find examples of such non-linear language and communication?
Many. We can find them in the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian hieroglyphics, in the products of Aztec civilization, in the Hindu's and Buddhist mandalas, in the Chinese symbolism, in the geometry of Islamic Art, in the products of Malay cosmology and many more.
Dear Mr. Villeneuve,
If we knew how to appreciate, embrace and experience the non-linearity of traditional forms of visualization, language and communication, the non-linear language of those two aliens in your movie wont be that mysterious to experience. Dr. Banks in the movie, as a linguist, should have no problem grasping a non-linear language system. But I suspect that her expertise is framed as more on modern linear languages rather than the ancient and traditional ones.
Dear Mr. Villeneuve,
Another big deal about non-linear language that can be found in many forms of traditional visualization and communication is that it is a language that needs to be experienced and felt rather than studied, analyzed and 'translated'.
I fancy the term 'quantum visualization' since such non-linear language can be reproached as a visualization of a quantum state. In fact, non-linearity is a quantum state.
What are the qualities that define such quantum state? Your physicist character in the movie Dear Mr. Villeneuve, should have explained it better than me here.
It is a state of infinite probabilities. Some physicists employ the terms uncertainties and possibilities. Few others would explain it through the concept of bifurcation, or infinite branching and sub-branching of time and space in concurrent or simultaneous manner.
Non-linearity also relates to 'non-locality', in which one experiences multiple time-space (dimensions) at once, at every moment, every fraction of a second, every 'now', simultaneously. Non-linearity and non-locality allow us to experience 'nowness' and be freed from the linear trappings of time and space.
Other qualities that relate to non-linearity is inter-connectivity and entanglement. I will touch more on these qualities of quantum state in the second part of my reflection.
Interestingly, we can find these qualities of quantum state in many forms of non-linear visualization, language and communication of many spiritual traditions around the world including in the examples that I have mentioned above. In fact, through my current research, I am reproaching the geometric language of Islamic visual tradition as a form of quantum visualization, meant to allow us experience non-linearity. But that will be another story. This reflection is on non-linearity in your movie.
Few writers refer to such non-linear language as the 'language and grammar of harmony'. It is a shared language of humanity that has been obscured by our over-bearing towards scientific, logical, sequential, the so-called rational and objective mind and thinking. We have been conditioned to over-think until we forgot to feel. We have been over-using our left brain until we forgot to balance it with our right brain. We have become too comfortable with logic until we become suspicious of our own intuition. We cherish knowing more than experiencing or 'being'. We celebrate our brain, but we forgot to nourish our heart. We look up to cleverness more than kindness. We are obsessed with speed until we forgot the value of stillness. We are trapped by linearity until we lost the preciousness of every moment, every now. We are bounded by the lower mind linear thinking that may lead us to unstable emotional frequencies such as fear, insecurity, hate, anger, greed, envy, ungratefulness, suspicion, the egoistic illusion of separateness and many more (as partly epitomized by the ubiquitous army set-up in your movie). We desperately need to elevate our lower mind thinking to a non-linear higher mind frequencies, that will lead us to the universal experience of inter-connected love beyond form, gratitude, honesty, joy and happiness.
The time has 'arrived' for us to globally re-embrace non-linearity, by 'heart', as warmly implied by your movie. The time is NOW.
For that Mr. Villeneuve, I thank you.
KEBUN JIWA HALUS
7 Tingkat Permai
11700 Gelugor, Penang,