The Beginning Montage

Time manipulation as transformation in Film.

Screen Shot 2023-02-13 at 4 56 22 AM

Picture from Blue Ridge Botanic.

Arrival (2016) is a film directed by Denis Villeneuve for Paramount Pictures. Starring Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks and Jeremy Renner as Dr. Ian Donnelly, this sci-fi film navigates the role of language in our understanding of concepts like time and its connection to how we derive meaning. An adaptation itself from the novella by Ted Chiang titled Story of Your Life (1998), I present below the beginning montage of the film. Keep in mind what was presented in Chapter II about Deleuze, and I will attempt to guide you through this montage as an example for how digital art like film transform time itself to defend its claim as a true form of art.

Time Annotation Layer
1:43 - 1:47 Scene starts out with Louise's daughter staring at the camera, where we assume Louise to be, and shifts from an aggressive fight to a calm-toned amends. The lighting is fairly unsaturated. Time scene 5
1:48 - 1:52 Both Louise and her daughter are in the hospital again, but this time it seems that the daughter is getting checked up for something. Time scene 6
0:02 - 0:06 Louise begins the film by narrating, "I used to think this was the beginning of your story" Dialogue, Narration
0:13 - 0:25 She continues, "Memory is a strange thing... It doesn't work like I thought it did; we are so bound by time, by its order." Dialogue, Narration
1:35 - 1:37 Louise's narration comes back, she recalls, "I remember moments in the middle." Dialogue, Narration
1:56 - 1:58 As a narrator, Louise returns with a somber attitude, remarking, "And this was the end." This seems to complete the traditional storyline of the montage, as she has now mentioned her, we now know as her narration towards her daughter, beginning, middle, and end. Dialogue, Narration
2:27 - 2:30 At the end of her narration, she returns again, "But now I'm not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings." Dialogue, Narration
0:26 - 1:00 We jumped from the empty room to the hospital, where Louise had just given birth to her daughter. Time scene 2
2:18 - 2:30 Now we see Louise walking the halls of the hospital somberly, as the lights begin to fade again. The end of this scene enters the film into a much more familiar timeline in films. Time scene 9
1:59 - 2:17 Continuing to cry, blending with the last scene, we begin thinking it might be at the same time, but when the camera spans to the daughter on her hospital bed, it becomes apparent that the daughter had cancer due to her head being bald. The scene draws out and the lighting gets dimmer, implying to us that she has died. Again, we see a similar shirt. Time scene 8
1:33 - 1:42 Jumps to a scene where she looks around the same age, but she is now in her bed, in golden-yellowish lights. Time scene 4
0:01 - 1:01 The music, "On The Nature Of Daylight" by Max Richter plays in the background, and this portion is the building up to the violin solo Score
1:06 - 1:09 Two note repetition; the repetition throughout the piece will be highlighted to show scale of repetition and serve as a use for making an argument about how the music itself plays a role in the film's conceptual authenticity. Score
1:13 - 1:16 Two note repetition Score
1:21 - 1:24 Two note repetition Score
1:29 - 1:32 Two note repetition Score
1:36 - 1:39 Two note repetition Score
1:44 - 1:47 Two note repetition Score
1:48 - 2:00 Rapid ending of the melody, not seen in Max Richter's original "On The Nature Of Daylight", so this is an example of the film changing the music to fit the authenticity of the scene Score
2:01 - 2:30 The descension of the music into a single, uniform voice, seeming to connect our understanding of the descension of the music with the descension of Louise's daughter's health, into the single note-- or flatline. Score
0:00 - 0:25 As the film begins, Dr. Louise Banks introduces us, referring to someone, in what seems to be her house on the side of a body of water. The room is dark and no lights are on, it seems to be either early morning or towards the end of the day. The room is empty. Time scene 1
1:01 - 1:32 The next scene sends us to when the daughter has grown a bit, around 8 or 9 years old, and they are playing around together outside, seemingly roleplaying as in the Wild West. Time scene 3
0:03 - 0:07 Within the first line of the film, we already get a sense that time and storyline are going to be a large part of the film. We also, in retrospect, recognize that Louise mentioned "used to think", so we know that something in the film is going to change her perception of time. General Commentary
0:13 - 0:16 Her introduction of memory is also interesting. For many artists, the connection between time and memory is heavy. As some believe memory to be our understanding of time. Memory is personal, and if we are to look at the crossing of time and story, memory will be at the crux of it. General Commentary
0:04 - 0:17 This canvas of the landscape through the window continues to come throughout the film, as you will see in the Ending Montage annotations. The use of repetition seems to be very important, as you also see through the film creator's choice in music. Repetition can add the sense of timelessness, or as a reminder that even when our focus shifts from one thing to another, we will constantly be reminded of that which is always there. General Commentary
0:04 - 0:16 This panning of the window also juxtaposes and emphasizes the stillness of the landscape, which is something that film is alone in its ability to showcase. General Commentary
0:23 - 0:25 Her discussion of time and order become a central theme in the film, and something to keep in mind is why would the film creator decide to explicitly tell us these things, why would they put these things in a montage instead of being hinted at throughout the film? This seems to bring into question the authenticity, as the film creators believed that showing these themes and ideas through a montage, versus an imitation of real human life, would elicit a more aesthetic or emotional response. General Commentary
0:32 - 0:35 Louise is looking at her baby, also to note that the baby's father, as noted in the other montage's annotations, Dr. Ian Donnelly, is not to be found. She seems to look down, almost as if she were dreading or coming to terms with her baby's existence. We now know, due to the film's plot, that this is because she knows the entire trajectory of her child's life. However, when people were watching this scene for the first time, they would not have initially come to that conclusion, so there is also a combined aspect of these subtle actions that either the film's creators believed the viewers would come back to, or that these subtle actions would help shape a very specific and niche environment to push the viewer into the suggested mindset. General Commentary
0:54 - 0:56 When Louise asks for her baby back, we again, watching in retrospect, know that this could be because she knows that she only has limited time with her baby. However, this seems to direct us in a very important aspect of the film. There are distinct differences between what we, in real life, know about our life, and what Louise knows with her ability to see her life holistically thanks to the gift from the aliens' language. However, the film seems to point out the hypocrisy of how our brains distinct these two things because after we repeat our sentence, "this could be because she knows that she only has a limited time" is full of hypocrisy, because this is something we can believe and say without knowing our full story. We all know one thing, and that is that death is certain. General Commentary
1:13 - 1:30 With Louise's playtime with her daughter, again in retrospect, we begin to see more of what the creators were attempting to highlight, as even here, she still finds time to enjoy and embrace the moment, even though she knows that her daughter is going to die. It seems to be this, this embracing of the moment in its whole, that the film is arguing we ought to do. General Commentary
1:55 - 2:00 Even knowing her daughter's future, she still weeps, and this seems to make a distinction between intellect, or reason, and emotion. To some, the uncertainty of our world is what brings these emotions to fruition. In some instances, this makes more sense, like fear; why would one cry or become anxious about something you know is coming? On the other hand, you can expect something to bring you pain, but that knowledge does not protect or prevent the feeling of pain. Nonetheless, the film points out that knowing something doesn't inherently change how we express emotion. In the last commentary, we discussed how this knowledge doesn't prevent us from giving things meaning, but this seems to promote the other side; knowledge doesn't prevent things from inherently having meaning to us. General Commentary
2:02 - 2:29 With the descension, it is important to keep in mind that this is another specific instance where film holds an advantage in creating its own atmosphere, as each and every aspect of what the viewer is hearing and listening to has been chosen and created to make a specific environment to evoke a specific aesthetic or emotional response. The descension of music, the acting of Louise crying, the panning of the camera allowing the viewer to get close, and the lighting, have all transformed the different aspects of the film into one synthesis. General Commentary
2:07 - 2:12 Louise again repeats the line that she mentioned when the nurse initially took her daughter for a check at the beginning of the montage saying, "Come back to me." This again fuels the importance of repetition and timeless aspects of love juxtaposing the very limited and time-constrained aspects of human reality. General Commentary
2:27 - 2:30 With this last narration, Louise mentioned that she is "not sure" about what she thinks about beginnings and endings. This could be an example of how the film makes an interesting choice about what mental or time-space the narrator lives in. In the earlier examples, we know that Louise already has her holistic understanding of time because it was after her interaction with the aliens. So, that leaves us with the question: why is she not sure? Are the creator's leaving it as a question to not give too much away to the viewer? Through this montage she went from "I used to believe" to "I'm not sure anymore", so is this to give us more answers about why she still has these emotions with her daughter? Is it not because these emotions will exist even with the knowledge of her death, but more that she doesn't completely comprehend that knowledge in the first place? I'm keen to believe that it was a stylistic choice to keep the story more interesting and open-ended in order to be cohesive in the beginning. General Commentary
1:04 - 1:08 This scene with the daughter running around with the stick horse, in my understanding, provides a good example of Deleuze and his conception of the Time-Image. Not only is the film playing around with the use of time through these montages, but there is something inherently inauthentic about these seemingly raw and emotional moments being drowned out by the use of the music and the focus going in and out on the daughter or Louise herself. General Commentary
2:02 - 2:03 This discussion of the story as well as the complete curation of the music, even when that isn't how it was made considering it wasn't made for the film, points to a great conglomeration of creation that I believe highlights Deleuze's Crystal-Image very well. It isn't just the spelling out, it isn't just the collection of images, it is the complete molten or forged whole that comes out of these images put together along with every aspect from the music to the filter. It makes the lines between the pictures dissipate, and this is what Deleuze means when hinting at the Time-Image as beyond the Movement-Image. General Commentary
2:02 - 2:03 Within that similar interaction, this explains why not only movement is important as a transformation between one image to the next as we see in the Movement-Image, but also in the sense that there is a transformation from the Movement-Image into the Time-Image. It can seem contradictory to want to include the importance of transformation as well as time if I were to appeal to Deleuze, but in reality transformation, in the way I'm using it, allocates room for both the movement itself as well as the transcendental movement beyond. General Commentary
0:53 - 1:00 She looked to the nurse who had taken her daughter to check on her and playfully but sternly said, "Okay... Come back to me. Come back to me. Come back to me." Dialogue
1:01 - 1:02 Her middle childhood daughter while pointing her hands as if they were guns, dressed up in Wild West gear commands, "Stick 'em up!" This is within the roleplay, so she is threatening Louise's character to put her hands in the air if she doesn't comply with her commands. Dialogue
1:03 - 1:15 Louise's character replies, "Are you the sheriff in this here town," while not complying with her daughter's character's commands. Her daughter backs up and giggles. Louise starts to transform her finger-guns into clasps in a pinch-like action. Louise's character continues saying, "These are my tickle guns, and I'm gonna getcha!" Her daughter's character continues to giggle and defiantly respond by shaking her head and faintly replying, "No!" Louise's character, in response to the lack of compliance, exclaims, "You want me to chase you?" all while still in her Western voice. She continues in her normal voice, "You better run!" Dialogue
1:16 - 1:29 She starts wiggling all of her fingers, seemingly as her final warning in her promise to tickle her daughter's character. The daughter's character screams and starts to move around on her stick-horse, and the movement startles Louise so she lets out a faint, "Oh!" They seem to be in a stand-off, staring the other down in a slow-moving circle. Louise seems to be taking a break, sitting down and watching as her daughter continues to run around, bells clanging and galloping on her stick-horse. Dialogue
1:40 - 1:45 Louise's daughter, looking directly in sentimental eye contact with her, unpromptedly exclaims, "I love you," in a tender voice. In the next time-scene, it juxtaposes the tender 'I love you' in the previous scene with Louise's daughter angrily shouting, "I hate you!" Dialogue
2:07 - 2:11 She murmurs close to her daughter's face, saying, "Come back to me. Baby, come back to me," while crying. Dialogue
1:53 - 1:58 The doctor and Louise are talking alone in the hallway where Louise begins to cry, being told unfortunate information about her daughter's health. The shirt that Louise is wearing looks like the same one worn from the previous scene. Time scene 7

III. The Beginning Montage at Internet Archive.

IIIF manifest: