The sound of The Arrival (2016)

Let’s talk a little about The Arrival (2016), a film with a double nomination to the Oscars 2017: a better edition and better mix. I have chosen this film because there is an extra component in the audio of the movie because of its impecable design and the way sound is placed within the psychological values of the film.

How do you imagine the sound of aliens?

One of the most important points of the film in terms of sound was creating the sound of extraterrestrial language. And I think it’s amazing how the director and all the people working behind the film solve this issue: The vocalization and the music work at the same time. We don’t know what is music and what is a sound effect. We can see an example if you click here, when there is the first contact between the translator (and all the team) and the aliens (min 1:28 to be concrete).

m_3_origIn terms of audio, there is one of the most important scene where the translator is having contact directly with the alien. We can hear her voice sounding different because of the atmosphere of the place she is, as if she were in a fish tank. Also we can hear the echo of the movements, the distance of the alien’s language changing… And also we hear at some points other effects like a heart beating, a beast making sounds, sighs, and silence. Like calm but anxious at the same time.  

I invite you to make an exercise. Just close your eyes and listen this soundtrack of the first encounter I was talking about. You’ll se that creating new sounds is very difficult. There are so many sounds we can identify, but the way they are combined, created and the way they sound, create this atmosphere. By the time we ad the images, everything makes more sense.

All the sonorous language express subtlety without necessarily annulling the expression. That’s what Bellemare, the sound editor, express in an interview: 

”Even when we are in a science fiction movie with giant aliens, we follow a single woman, very close to her emotion, and she has the inability to communicate. The sound had to represent a mental vision of what was happening in her mind”

And that’s the emotion that arrives and comes to us. We are expecting but frustrating by the same time because they don’t understand each other.

So I ask again the first question: how do you imagine the sound of aliens?

For example, remembering the legendary film Alien (1979), the screams come to our mind under the lema “in space no one can hear you scream”. An other example is the film E.T. (1982), in which the sound is added to those values of fraternity, solidarity and tolerance that nest in children. For not talking to Encounters of the Third Kind (1978) and those four notes G, A, F, F, C that remains us the simplicity of understanding among us, sometimes.

What I am trying to say and to conclude, is that the sound, the music, the effects and all the sonor universe has to have a meaning, a goal and a message according to the film but also by itself.

Sources

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