Gemma King on Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

Join us for this week’s CuSPP seminar:

Denis Villeneuve’s multilingual cinema: Decentring space, time and language in Arrival

Thursday 4 October, 1pm, Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL

With dialogue in Arabic, English, Finnish, French, Hungarian, Japanese, Mandarin, Norwegian, Russian, Somali, Spanish and even extraterrestrial languages, Québécois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s cinema revolves around language. From 2010’s trilingual Incendies to 2017’s heptalingual Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve’s films increasingly feature protagonists who not only speak multiple languages, but use multilingualism to exert social power. In these films, lingua francas like English and French remain essential, but it is the ability to manipulate peripheral and even marginalised languages that is key to unlocking oppressive structures and shifting power dynamics within them.

This talk analyses Denis Villeneuve’s multilingual, transnational cinema, in which characters not only understand multiple languages, but deploy them strategically. Drawing on Bill Marshall’s vision of cinema and nation in Quebec National Cinema as a ‘very mobile spiral’ (2000: 3), it charts the progressive decentring at play in Villeneuve’s 2016 quadrilingual film, Arrival.

Gemma King is a Lecturer in French at the ANU. Her research explores language, power and cultural representation in contemporary French, Francophone and transnational cinemas. Her first book Decentring France: Multilingualism and Power in Contemporary French Cinema was published with Manchester University Press in 2017, and her work has also appeared in Contemporary French Civilization, French Cultural Studies, The Australian Journal of French Studies, The Conversation and Francosphères. She is currently working on the book Jacques Audiard for the Manchester French Film Directors series.

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