Monday, 16 February 2009


I hold my hands up as an unrepentant admirer of the films of M.Night Shyamalan. I really find the abuse that seems to be heaped on both him personally and on his films totally mystifying.Even if you feel his films are not up to much, why the abuse ? Personally, the only thing that worries me about the fact that his films seem to attract such a negative response is that he might not get finance for another. In these days when Hollywood is obsessed with remakes and sequels, Night is a young director who does neither. He writes and directs his movies which, for the most part, are unlike anything being made in Hollywood today. On the surface his films are easy to describe, but since WIDE AWAKE he has made THE SIXTH SENSE, SIGNS, UNBREAKABLE, THE VILLAGE and LADY IN THE WATER - all, for my money, highly original (if you think SIGNS is about an alien invasion you are seriously missing the point - what his films are actually about is never on the surface - which is not to say you have to look very deep) - and now comes THE HAPPENING. Grass makes people commit suicide ? Aw, C'mon - that's not what it is really about! See it and think - that is what the director is asking you to to rather than sit and be brainwashed. On the surface, THE HAPPENING has some very good performances (even Mark Wahlberg) and some terrifically directed scenes (the sequences near the end with the isolated old lady make one {well, me!} long to see Night attempt something more gothic). I have to take issue with the end of the film. Shyamalan is noted for what many moviegoers call the twist ending (in fact they are nothing of the sort and if you pay attention the endings should just confirm what you had worked out during the unravelling of the plot). THE HAPPENING has two endings - the first which is satisfying and give close for the chacacters is followed by a totally predictable epilogue set in Paris which just spell out what we would expect anyway and does nothing more than prove that Hollywood doesn't like a happy ending. If I had to compare (an odious pastime I admit) with another film, thematically, it would be Ingmar Bergman's SHAME which many regard as the Swedish direcor's greatest film, although it is actually my least favourite Bergman film. Shyamalan is more optimistic than Bergman, although I am not putting Night in Bergman's class. Rating ***

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

Good for you! I too am mystified by the vitriol hurled the director's way. Admittedly I'm not much of a Shyamalan fan since the last film of his I saw was UNBREAKABLE and haven't seen any of the films that came after. However, like you said, the pissed-off nature of the Anti-Shyamalan Brigade seem to hate him for not providing a boffo twist ending every film...which he never really did in the first place, as you mentioned before. His endings follow logically through the entire movie if you're paying attention and, really, if the director actually WAS trying for twist endings every movie that would be entirely tiresome and repetitive, wouldn't it? Having only seen THE SIXTH SENSE and UNBREAKABLE I can't really comment on his entire output but, if I were him, I would certainly make sure NEVER to make a film with a so-called "twist ending"! Why do the same thing over and over again? And why try to come up with a twist ending when it sounds like most of the viewing public is expecting it and microscopically watching every film for evidence of it?!? Seriously, with all the really lousy, repetitive, gawdawful, unoriginal remakes and tired plot points coming out of Hollywood every week, isn't there a wealth of filmmakers MUCH more deserving of abuse than Shyamalan???