Through a (First) Contact Lens Darkly: Arrival, Unreal Time and Chthulucinema

Film-Philosophy 22 (3):340-363 (2018)
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Science fiction is often held up as a particularly philosophical genre. For, beyond actualising mind-experiment-like fantasies, science fiction films also commonly toy with speculative ideas, or else engineer encounters with the strange and unknown. Denis Villeneuve's Arrival is a contemporary science fiction film that does exactly this, by introducing Lovecraft-esque tentacular aliens whose arrival on Earth heralds in a novel, but ultimately paralysing, inhuman perspective on the nature of time and reality. This article shows how this cerebral film invites viewers to confront a counterintuitive model of time that at once recalls and reposes what Gilles Deleuze called a “third synthesis” of time, and that which J. M. E. McTaggart named the a-temporal “C series” of “unreal” time. We finally suggest that Arrival's a-temporal conception of the future as having already happened can function as a key to understanding the fate of humanity as a whole as we pass from the anthropocene, in which humans have...



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