Boundary Hidden in Globalization is Revealed by Arrival (2016)

All the film fans in the world probably know that the 89th Academy Awards ceremony will be taking place in Hollywood in a week’s time, an event that is capable of winning global spotlight as well as filmic resources. Taking a view at the complete list of this year’s nominees, it’s not hard to find a title for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) — Arrival (2016), which been also been a hit for a new pattern of Sci-Fi narrative. Adapting from Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, Arrival gives us a story about “When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.”


We might as well, for a moment, put aside the production quality of the film itself, and just purely think about the issues of time-space and boundary manifested in this film in respect of globalization. Robertson used to define globalization as “a concept refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of conscious about the world as a whole”. (1992) On the surface, the film shows a positive side of globalization by reflecting to the point of “conscious about the world as a whole”. The plot that all the nations communicate with each other as well as human beings on earth communicate with aliens with different languages eventually leads to a happy ending of the protagonist Louise successfully avoid a star war with her distinguished language ability. Moreover, it seems like delivering a message that humans can do whatever that want with the force of globalization.


The plot would have fallen into the cliche of heroism and materialization consciousness on multi-ethnics if it brakes here. It is delighted to see a exploration of vertical presentation on actual boundaries existed in form of the strategy of non-zero-sum game. This part of the plot somehow responds to the definition of “compression of the world”, which appears in the book of Eriksen as “time-space compression” (2007). Viewing back into Arrival, the protagonist Louise finally masters the language of the aliens, and gains the capability of prophet, which is often used as a metaphor of future technological development in film works. However, even so, there is still nothing she can do to change a thing because of the time and space paradox. It’s the boundary between her present life and her future life. Eriksen indicates “technological changes are necessary conditions for time-space compression” in understanding globalization. Nevertheless, it’s necessary but far from sufficient.


Globalization, perhaps is a paradox likewise, which cannot run away from its attributes of vulnerability and instability caused by the initial desire of imperialism. As the case might be, the world cinema is globalizing, only with more boundaries.


By Wandi Lou

Eriksen, T. H. (2007). Globalization: The Key Concepts. London: Routledge

Nagib, L. (2011). World Cinema and the Ethics of Realism. New York: Continuum International Pub. Group Inc

Rodowick, D.N. (2007). The Virtual Life of Film. London: Harvard University Press

Robertson, R. (1992). Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture. London: Sage

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