It’s actually quite nice to see M. Night Shyamalan making something of a comeback. All too often, we see filmmakers lose their touch and sort of fade into obscurity, but with these last two movies, Shyamalan is proving once again why fans used to consider him one of the up-and-coming masters of suspense.
After movies like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs hit theaters, it seemed like he was an unstoppable force, but with the release of The Village — a film that was largely divisive, even among his fans - it seemed to reveal a chink in his armor. His next movie, Lady in the Water was the biggest flop of his career, and from there, it seemed as though the filmmaker had fallen into a pit of quicksand.
It’s been north of ten years since those movies hit, and in the time since, one has to wonder what the filmmaker thinks of The Village and Lady in the Water in retrospect. Does he look upon them fondly, or does he see them as the films that that knocked him off of his pedestal? Speaking with Yahoo! Movies, the filmmaker discussed the relevance that The Village has today on a metaphorical level.
“There’s an article that somebody sent me about The Village and this election. The idea of demonizing what’s out there in the forest and banding together is similar to what’s going on right now. I guess the film is my way of empathizing with the idea of wanting things to be simpler, like they were in the old days. I’m not envious that my kids grew up with this. [Lifting his smartphone] I’m like, “You guys are screwed!” Here’s what my life was like [as a kid]: I would come home from school, go to my room, and that was that. There was no way to call my friends unless I used the house phone and got yelled at by my parents. So what do you do when there’s no social network? You find out who you are.”
Shyamalan admittedly threw me for a bit of a loop with his explanation there. At first, I thought he’d get more political (that's definitely what his referenced article posits), but at the end of the day, The Village seems to harken back to a time when you lived in your own isolated world. Though, to be fair, the whole message about wanting things to be simpler seems to go against the ending of the movie, which reveals the plot to be set in modern day. Or perhaps the film was his way of coping with the fact that fleeing internally is really only a short term solution. Even if that’s his own natural gut reaction, perhaps he believed it, on an intellectual level, to be the way of stagnancy (See? Who says you can't still find new insights in The Village?).
Shyamalan didn’t just talk about The Village. As mentioned above, the filmmaker had many films fans love to hate, and Lady in the Water is much higher on that list than The Village. So what does Shyamalan think of his first flop now?
“I love that movie. If my house was burning down, and I had to grab a few movies, Lady would be one of them. I’d grab Unbreakable, Lady, and maybe Split and get the hell out! [Laughs] That movie was quirky, and I was doing the kind of stuff we’ve been talking about, but hadn’t settled on a genre yet. The genre of that movie was kind of a kids’ fantasy, but I was toying with ideas of tone and movement that, had I wrapped it inside of a thriller instead, would have been right on the money. That’s the one that causes the most religion of my movies. It’s my least-seen movie, but the people who saw it love it.”
Of course, the general premise of that movie was based on a fairy tale he told his kids -- that was advertised all over the film when it was released, so it's not necessarily surprising that he still has fond memories of it, but I’ll admit that I also have a soft spot for Lady in the Water. In an age of cynicism, I consider it to be a bright ray of unadulterated optimism. But if you want more on that, I recommend checking out the piece below.