Reading the book, “Stories of Your Life and Others” by Ted Chiang, was a very different reading experience for me. The reason for this is that when I finished the book I went to the show and saw the movie. “Arrival” is based on one of the 9 chapters in this book. In fact, I went to the show the same day I finished the book.
This proved to be very revealing. Normally a book is the better option between movies and books, and there are a lot of good reasons for that.
The plot usually is better in a book. You can see into the character’s minds and thoughts. You just know more about the characters. You know their history. You may be exposed to a lot of side stories. When they do something it can be more clear as to why they are doing it with more depth of knowledge having been available.
You have more freedom to imagine the surroundings in your own way. When you read you can use all of your own experiences to add to the descriptions and things that happen.
In a movie, sometimes the actors do a poor job, or are poorly cast for their roles. They can just be such beautiful, or maybe ugly people, that their presence distracts form the plot. You can be influenced by good, or poor, acting to the extent that you lose track of the plot's intent.
This movie and this book were a big exception to what usually is the case.
The first problem was the plot. The plot in the book seemed to be the central theme of aliens landing in several places on the earth and efforts made in trying to communicate with them. What seemed like a sub-plot in the book were the memories of the linguist, Dr. Louise Banks. She kept remembering her daughter death and many of the specific events in her short life. Those memories popped up in paragraphs that just seemed at times as a side bar thought and not the main story. That bigger story of the aliens arrival seemed clearly in the book to be the main story line. The purpose of those memories wasn’t clear, or understood, until near the end of the story in the book.
We were left with two much room to project our own thoughts as to why the memories were occurring and didn’t see the connections.
In the movie those memories turned out to be as important, or more important, than the aliens visit. The movie seemed to have more control over the memories plot. It was able to emphasis some of those memories that were very relevant to the over all event. The control was in the advantage of being able to imply connections to things by flash backs. The repetition was itself a statement. Just seeing the facial expressions, as the mother remembered things, was a real advantage.
The relationship that evolved between the two key actors was detected much sooner in the movie, again because you could see their faces and by just watching them together. This is another area where it just wasn’t that clear in the book how they felt about each other until the end.
This movie was better than the book.
The movie “Arrival” left me in awe at the plot. Not just the arrival but all that happened. The book,“Stories of Your Life,” left me unclear as to what had really brought the event about.
Books often precede good movies. They usually are so much better that it is just assumed that you’re better off with the book. It isn't unusual to be walking out of the theater and hear someone saying to a freind, "O the book was so much better".
Both books and movies are influences of importance. Both can teach you and help you understand yourself better. Through both you can have experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise be able to. Don’t discount movies as being literary influences.