Thursday, February 01, 2018
Without language and linguists humanity is at a loss
Science-Fiction über alles, above all and everything
I will take the three following films in retrospect with the most recent that is also the most banal and deals with extraterrestrial monsters, first. Then the second most recent that deals with a real human situation in a very long distance cosmic flight. And finally the least recent that deals with a real human situation and the typical human folly when Extraterrestrials come down to our planet. Destroy them all for our sake. Shoot first and speak second. It is a good film since a linguist and a physicist manage to crack the language and script of the Extraterrestrials, but that leads nowhere because the bigots nearly got the last word. The ending is humane and reasonable, but the very last sequence or so is just a ton of sugar poured onto a thousand liters of honey in a last totally irrelevant scene. But this third film is the best.
Small film of farniente, do nothing and have a siesta, on the international space station. Chinese excluded of course. Nasa dominated. When you have nothing to do and you have a marvelous extraordinary laboratory and means, you try everything you can without even checking what you are doing. So a new matter, substance or whatever is collected up there from out-space is a troth of pleasure. At once you cultivate it in more or less safe conditions; You play with it when it starts pushing some small tentacles and you even provoke it a little bit electricity. That is a like a puppet show.
The being is a crossed version of an octopus, a star fish and some kind of alien. It is nice and beautiful as long as it is small. But it grows fast and becomes aggressive. It eats all it can catch that is alive or emit some energy in the form of fire or light or whatever. In no time, it manages to invade the one who was playing with it and it evades from its little airtight cage and it invades the whole station, inside at first and outside then because it does not breathe and it can survive both in the station or in outer space.
The thriller is simple and is no thriller since there is no suspense. They will all end up dead and eaten and one of them will carry it, one it-individual, to the earth where some naïve Asian fishermen will liberate it out of curiosity.
I am telling you I am still shivering, of cold more than fear, because I had forgotten to turn the heating on this afternoon. It is true 15 Celsius is a little cool. That’s a film for people who are addicted to space and aliens. It requires a lot of special effects and computerized simulation but apart from that the pattern is just what it is a pattern.
This film is interesting because it is a big parable, a tale, a fairy tale even. No monsters. Just humans, one android, many robots and an enormous machine, a spacecraft built up with thousands of machines that have to work together in the most coordinated way.
On its way to its 120-year-away destination, it meets with an enormous meteoroid and the shield is not strong enough. The meteoroid causes damage that will take about four to five years to come to the point of no return. It woke up one of the 5,000 passengers from hibernation. This passenger will survive alone for three years and then finally yield to the temptation of waking up a woman to bring his solitude to an end. He is a technician and knows a few things about the spacecraft. Aurora is the woman of his choice. He is a Jim of no special metaphor whereas the woman is the dawn of morning and the morning glory in this dark adventure that will bring them to their destination dead.
The bartender, an android, had promised not to tell the woman but of course, he does. Never trust androids. They are programmed not to hide anything and not to tell lies. The situation of love and care becomes one of hate and rejection. Luckily the ship becomes a little bit berserk and the captain actually wakes up out of schedule. That will not last long because he will die within just a very few days. But Jim will have the captain’s ID and a few other privileges and passwords.
The captain dies and right after that, the promised major disruption happens. And Jim is alone with Aurora to stabilize the ship. A difficult task for two people who do not like each other very much at that point. They will succeed and Jim will die and will be resuscitated by some miracle mechanical medical doctor. So Jim and Aurora will get married, in a way, and they will have something like 87 years before reaching their destination which no longer is their destination. They will not reach it.
So they decide to transform the spaceship, at least the main atrium in the center of the common passenger spaces into some garden of Eden. The Bible is buried under one million years of alluvia. Adam and Eve just cultivate a garden of Eden on the spacecraft somewhere far away, hence nowhere at all in distant immense and limitless space.
And sure enough they do reach their destination and the crew is woken up and these crew members discover something like a rose garden in the forum of the spacecraft. Magic and romantic. Enjoy the fairy tale.
The best of this trilogy of science fiction films for the end. This film is in many ways a very good film that deals with the arrival of aliens on earth and their first contact with human beings. It shows a little bit of the panic it creates on earth, like the evangelists and other apocalyptic prophets who announce the end of this world; then the jingoist bigots who require the extermination of these aliens from the very start to protect the human species. ETC. There is no end to human folly.
But at this level of the human response to twelve alien space crafts levitating in twelve places in the world, the film shows how easy the jingoists can win. The American side that started an intelligent mission to communicate with the aliens thanks to the help and competence of a linguist and a physicist, is also the first one shown as trying to blow up the spacecraft, which fails because the aliens detect the explosive and neutralize the bombs that explode within the spacecraft but with no damage caused.
The film insists on the fact that China, then Russia, then Sudan and Pakistan (I might be wrong on this fourth one) want to destroy the space crafts because they apparently misunderstood a message in the alien language and script. Only the American side of the linguistic communication is provided, though the film alludes to linguistic experts on the Chinese side. It is funny because the writing system is what looks like absolutely arbitrary scribbles and ink stains. The linguist manages to make everyone understand that these circles are words, and the physicist using some software manages to isolate some of these words, though we might think that a circle could be more than one concept and thus be a sentence.
But it is when that communication is becoming successful that the paranoia wins in the American camp as well and as fast as in the other camps in the world. It is an impossible and incredible act of rebellion of the linguist that avoids the worst end possible. She steals the phone of the top commander of the camp on the American site and she calls the General, head of the Chinese Liberation Army, and tells him what she thinks about the communication, and it all in Chinese, which is, of course, an advantage over all the military personnel who speaks one language, and even so quite often a dialect of this language, i.e. English. The effect is immediate. The Chinese general steps back and the military confrontation is avoided.
The end is a marshmallow in a fire. It melts down to some kind of sloppy sweet honey-covered soft candy and the aliens just dissolve their space crafts into thin air. And they go away. That’s what I call real adventurous explorers. Then some mellow personal ending and touch to have the good Hollywoodian – or should I say Hollywoodistic, or even Hollywoosadistic – happy ending with love, marriage, birth, etc.
But remember! In all vast questions, it is always the linguist – especially if the linguist is a woman and if possible a structuralist – who knows better for a simple reason: there is no science if an articulated language does not exist FIRST. How could Homo Sapiens conceive the concept of ZERO if he did not have a language that had permitted his conceptualization power to develop? And the Mayas, the Chinese and later the Arabs, but probably some anterior communities in the Middle East, developed that ZERO without any communication among them, at least for the Chinese and the Mayas who did it first. And that ZERO will be imported into Europe by Descartes in the 17th century: “al gèbre” as he called it.