Talking in Circles: Creating the Alien Language of 'Arrival'
By: Calla Cofield, Space.com Staff Writer
...Arrival" tells the story of two scientists attempting to communicate with alien beings who arrive in massive stone spaceships at various locations around the globe. Visually, the movie embraces minimalism, rather than flashy, high-tech settings. The movie's palette is dark and earth-toned (even the spaceships are a natural material).
But "Arrival" still boasts great visual complexity. Perhaps the most obvious example is in the alien's written language. The symbols look like circles of randomly splattered ink, but in this fictional world, every inky tendril is intentional. This was one of the central elements that the film's production designer, Patrice Vermette, and the director, Denis Villeneuve, struggled to perfect. Ultimately, it was the artist Martine Bertrand who cracked the code. ..
..."It turns out there's a mathematical law for the redundancy of any language," Shostak said. "And you can apply that to the sounds made by dolphins or even other critters, like ants. And they follow this same mathematical law. So that suggests that it's not just noise [the animals are making], there's actually a language there. So I think that if you picked up a signal coming from aliens, you'd do the same thing."...
(See full article, with visuals and video here: http://www.space.com/35696-arrival-movie-alien-language-explained.html )
I suggest people read 'The Story of Your Life', which is the short story upon which 'Arrival' is based. It goes into great detail about the structure of the written language. So much detail, in fact, that this production designer mentioned in the article had most of their work done for them already. :)
It's quite unfair that Ted Chiang's work- without which there would be no 'Arrival' -isn't mentioned in this article at all.
I've recently watched the movie, but I decided to read the story beforehand - just like you suggested a while ago - and I'm glad I did, because it made me appreciate the movie even more. It was great advice, thank you.
I bought two copies in December for myself and a friend. We are waiting for a chance to read it together over skype.
The movie was great! I watched it 2-3 times. I'll admit to crying twice. Once was when Adams was explaining why she was taking the approach she was, rather than the approach the military wanted her to take. Was so language nerdy.