The 2016 film Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve and based on Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life,” shares much with the tone of the cerebral and philosophically adventurous science-fiction from twentieth-century speculative-fiction masters like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Rod Serling. Helmed by Villeneuve, Arrival’s simultaneous full command of modern moviemaking practices as well as fidelity to that earlier era’s penchant for respecting the intellect of its audience make it an excellent film.
But as much as Arrival’s modern touches and classic style make for profuse praiseworthy and analytical fare—and have featured in reviews, essays, and explanations aplenty—it’s another relationship that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere that interests me more: the overlap between the premise of Arrival and a philosophical concept known as ‘eternal recurrence’ or ‘eternal return of the same’ that was most famously championed and explored in western philosophy by Friedrich Nietzsche. Both ultimately come around to raising the same notion: what would it mean to actively, enthusiastically, and fully will every moment of one’s life?
Life Willed at every Second: