It’s joyful to see the sublime taking over our storytelling business.
Ted Chiang’s science fiction short story read quite uncompromisingly scientific. But screenwriter Eric Heisserer turned it into something nobler, something delicate. Like a snowflake.
Denis Villeneuve and Heisserer brought in more humanity into the tale.
‘Arrival’ had all the classic traps for a Hollywood writer to fall into. Twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft appear on earth. Yet, from the tale we remember more aching scenes that enquire what ‘the other’ means to us.
Who’s your dying daughter to you? How would you balance the knowledge of future in the present? Your fiancee is hugging you and asking do you want to make a baby while you know years down, the baby will grow up and die of a disease and this man will leave you for another woman. And the threatening presence of heptapods (seven legged creatures) eventually leave you more enlightened about man and limits of his existence.
‘Annihilation’ belongs to writer-director Alex Garland as much as it does to its novelist Jeff VanderMeer.
Again, the maker has taken the original story into realms of sublimity by bringing in a psychological burden upon the protagonist. Tension and surprise keep growing as her hidden guilt spreads like the strange, shimmering fungi eating away humans through the tale. Terror blends with beauty here.
VanderMeer is an extraordinary maker of weird fiction. Yet, Garland weaves an invisible yarn of unspeakable bulk of guilt and shame into the whole narrative that the protagonist must now redeem herself from, with an act of valour by facing the unknown horror.
Movies are turning sublimer than books. Something’s growing in man. Something lighter. Something sticky. Something unknown.
Something I like very much.