Where can I Find the Spaceship in 'Arrival'?

Amy Adams profiled against the silhouette of the spacecraft in a scene from Sony Pictures' Arrival 

“Arrival” arrived at a time of rising isolationism and xenophobia around the world. The Denis Villeneuve movie about a world united—as one eventually becomes during an alien invasion—came like an elegy to an era of globalism and offered cinematic escapism when people needed it the most. 

"Arrival" was also a massive departure from Hollywood's cliched tropes of alien spaceships. Majestically hovering upright above the ground, the heptapod vehicles looked more like unearthly monoliths than interstellar craft. While Ted Chiang thought of them as spheres in his original story (the novella "Story of Your Life"), the spaceships ended up being these mysterious elongated ovals on film.

To bring to life the so-called Shells, production designer Patrice Vermette and team were inspired by everything from an oval-shaped exoplanet that resembled Venus to, finally, a giant asteroid: Eunomia. 

This isn't Eunomia's first close brush with Earth pop culture. The asteroid popped up in a novel before by Arthur C. Clarke as well as works by his fellow sci-fi writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. And why wouldn't it? The celestial object, discovered in 1851 by Annibale de Gasparis, is enormous, representing 1% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt. 

15 Eunomia, pictured below by the VSO Very Large Telescope SPHERE/ZIMPOL team, was the real-life inspiration for the design of the Arrival spaceships

In a curious turn of events, a peculiar heavenly body turned up in our neighborhood a year after “Arrival” premiered. In 2017, the solar system received its first visit from an interstellar object, Oumuamua, baffling astronomers everywhere with its incredible speed, which accelerated even after it passed by the Sun. Much like the Shells in the movie, the object was shaped longer than it was wide, prompting scientists to wonder if it was some probe or star sail sent our way by intelligent life.

As for the unforgettable look of the Shell interiors, it apparently originated from concepts by the artist Peter Konig; he illustrated the heptapods' lair as a brightly illuminated, aquarium-like chamber that interfaced between the extraterrestrials and humans. Vermette and team meanwhile mined the art of James Turrell to create the entrancing light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel look of the heptapods' inner sanctum. 

Okay, so where did the spaceships land in "Arrival"? The field on which the ETs arrive is not in Montana in real life. Filming took place in the municipality of Saint-Fabien in Bas-Saint-Laurent, some 560 kilometers from Montreal in Quebec. 

Parlez-vous Français, Abbott et Costello?

The fields of Saint-Fabien in French Canada's Bas-Saint-Laurent region (photo above via Ginochen3) posed as the state of Montana in the movie (below)


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