***MAJOR SPOILER ALERT, DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE SEEN ARRIVAL***
Films are always going to be different the second time around. While you may pick up on the odd thing you missed the first time, you know what to expect, you know how it ends and nothing is going to surprise you.
For films with twists, however, especially ones with such brilliantly executed ones (twists that become more like realisations), like Arrival, a second viewing can present an entirely different film.
Where the first time around, the mystery of the film was trying to understand the aliens and their presence, the knowledge of the film’s twist lends a sense of dramatic irony that adds on another layer of mystery and intrigue. We now know that the visions Louise has of her daughter and life are not flashbacks, but premonitions, stemming from a power the character doesn’t know she has yet. As a result, instead of seeing Louise’s emotions as grief in being reminded of the loss of her child, as we did in the first viewing, we see them as confusion, as Louise tries to figure out what these visions are that keep appearing. We act as if we don’t know, and thus are drawn in to figure out this puzzle with her, and understand why she keeps seeing this child she does not know.
It is upon this second viewing that you can truly appreciate the mastery of Amy Adams’ (should-have-been-Oscar-nominated) performance. She manages to simultaneously communicate two very different feelings, allowing the viewer to pick up on whichever one, depending on what information they have. This also emphasises the beautiful subtlety of Denis Villeneuve’s direction, in carrying the film in such a delicate balance.
You also take delight in seeing the clues the film weaves in, that you only really picked up on subconsciously upon first viewing (which made the twist a more gradual realisation and understanding, much like Louise has). Knowing the ending also provokes a much greater appreciation of the choices made in the film, especially the cinematography and mise-en-scene, powerful aspects of filmmaking that communicate meaning in the most subtle ways.
Of course, when the revelation comes, you are not quite in as much awe as in the first viewing, but it still provokes the same emotions, only you’ve been more aware of their build-up. It still wrapped itself around my thoughts when I left the cinema, a hallmark of a truly great film.
It’s a film where I remembered the emotions and my response, but not all of the details. It was spectacular the first time around, and upon a second viewing, is an almost entirely different experience, yet one that enriches the brilliance of the film. It warrants even further viewings that promise to remain fulfilling and entertaining.
You can read the original review here: ‘Arrival’ Review