(2000) dir. M. Night Shyamalan
Finally got around to seeing this film, long since it was a film of note. But with M. Night Shyamalan’s new film, Signs, opening this coming weekend, it seemed as good a time as any to finally catch it on DVD.
I think a lot of people found this film disappointing after 1999’s The Sixth Sense, which is understandable, since it really isn’t quite as good. Its tone is consistantly low-key, so much so, that the anticipated surprise ending for me was the moment that the credits rolled. I thought, “That’s it?”
The press likes to tout Shyamalan as the new Spielberg. In fact, I think Newsweek of Time has a tie-in cover story on him that says as much. It’s an apt comparison. Shyamalan seeks to reinvigorate some traditional genres of films, and he clearly sees himself in line with classic Hollywood styles.
At times, he employs really formal, interesting camera work, stuff that feels heavily planned and story-boarded. The camera movement and focus echoes of as much of Hitchcock as of early Spielberg. Shyamalan’s films evoke this while still trying to feel contemporary.
For me, his adherence to shooting on location in Philadelphia and the outlying region is quite admirable. It adds a particular personal edge to the films, situating them in a beautifully-photographed actual space, with its inherent character. With his native’s eye for his hometown, I think it truly adds something to his films. It is pervasive here, too.
An article that I was just reading about him suggested that his first two films were about protagonists that had to “find out who they really were” in order to make a change in their lives. It also focused on some spirituality that he aspires for, and Unbreakable is clearly interested in “faith”. Maybe I haven’t had enough time to fully process this film,…I don’t have anything further to add to these notions. As with any work of art, there are meanings that are “intended” and meanings that are “inferred”, and with those “intended” meanings out there on the table, I am not sure what I inferred in my reading of the film. I think, if anything, I would look at the intent eye of his camera, they way that it depicts scenes, carefully showing what it wants, to provide a wordless narrative. I think that some of these types of moments are Shyamalan’s best, as they tell the story in a very visual manner, yet inflecting the narrative via the camera’s control of the subjects.