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Arrival is one of the smartest science fiction movies that we’ve seen in a long time. The film’s brilliance comes not only from its focus on a linguist as the main character but in the way it forces the audience to consider concepts of language in entirely new ways. Now, an exclusive behind the scenes video gives us a bit of insight into exactly how the filmmakers went about creating a new language that looked nothing like anything we could even imagine.

The vast majority of “aliens visiting earth” movies focus on things like violent invasions or the clash of cultures. Arrival takes a step back and focuses on something even more basic. How would we even understand each other? Arrival is about Amy Adams character Louise Banks trying to understand how the alien heptapods communicate at all so that they can even get to the point of asking the aliens why they have come to Earth.

Of course, if the language was simple, anybody could do it. In this clip provided exclusivly to CinemaBlend from Paramount, that will be part of the extras included in the movie’s Blu-Ray release, director Denis Villeneuve says the key was to try and create something that wasn’t simply unknown, but was so different any known language that it would be utterly incomprehensible to start with. Patrice Vermette was the production designer tasked with the creation of the language. The characters aren’t only clueless about what the aliens are saying, they have no idea how to even distinguish words as we know them from the logograms that the aliens create as a means of communication.

One of the more interesting parts of the video is this image which is designed to show the production team how the image needs to be designed in a way that the character will be able to see how it could be divided into parts, while at the same time pointing out that it doesn’t need to be obvious to those of us watching that would necessarily make sense.

One of the brilliant things about Arrival is the way the characters slowly begin to figure out the alien language. While it’s never made perfectly clear to the audience how it all works, because that’s not really necessary, we do see the different parts and pieces as Amy Adams‘ character begins to figure it all out.

Arrival production design is being recognized as top notch as it was one of eight categories where the film was nominated for an Academy Award. Based on the quality of work that clearly went into the language design they’ve got a clear chance at earning that one. Though why Amy Adams did not receive a Best Actress nomination is still beyond understanding. Arrival arrives on Blu-ray February 14.

January 31, 2017
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