Lady in the Water

23 Jul

       The advertising for M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water has got to be the worst ever. This is not, absolutely not a horror movie. The scariest parts of it are no scarier than (and are very similar to) the scenes with the wolf creature chasing Bastion in The Neverending Story. If I had to pick a génre to describe Lady in the Water I’d say comedy. This movie is hilarious. Intentionally.
       But I wouldn’t describe this movie by génre. In fact, it’s quite similar to The Neverending Story in many ways exccept génre. Despite the fantastical creatures, Lady in the Water is not a fantasy. It really is exactly what it says it is: it’s a bedtime story. I don’t think I was ever told bedtime stories like this. I was read to, but I don’t remember anybody making up a story that lasted just long enough for me to fall asleep. Lady in the Water is like a campfire story. As the children sit around the fire, the counselor makes up a story about a guy, and a sea nymph, and some scary creatures. He talks about the rules of the sea nymph’s world, and he scares the kids a little, and then he makes them laugh, but he keeps coming to some kind of moral about knowing who you are, or destiny, or purpose, or something. It’s an engaging enough story that the kids don’t get bored, and perhaps they think about it as they drift off to sleep. In their dreams, sea nymphs tell them they are important.
       That’s how you have to watch this movie. If you can go and be a young child, tired but not ready to sleep, and listen as your guardian tells you a story (perhaps making it up as he goes along) you’ll probably enjoy the movie. I definitely did, and I wasn’t at all expecting it to be what it is.
       I think it’s perhaps the most daring piece of art I have ever seen. However, I can’t explain that without going into details which could spoil the bedtime story/fairy tale/movie if you haven’t seen it. So know that if you decide to keep reading.

       So once upon a time Cleveland, the apartment manager for The Cove, finds a sea nymph named Story in his swimming pool. This Story he finds has a purpose: to find a writer, inspire him, and tell him that his words will be the “seeds of change” which lead to revolution and eventually transform the world. And once Story has done this, she has to get back to her world, which is tricky because there are these vicious grass-dog creatures which want to kill her, and also she can only do it alone.
       Actually, no, she can only do it if people from various countries, backgrounds, religions, etc. representing a microcosm of a unified planet, all come together for the same purpose.
       Cleveland is a human being, so he feels for this Story and realizes he must get her home. She must have a happy ending, so to speak. So he brings in the various funny and strange dwellers of The Cove to help on his quest. After all, it can’t be done alone, and he needs them.
       The movie is very much about itself and storytelling. These characters all know they are part of this bedtime story about helping Story, and spend time figuring out what their roles are in the story. Is Cleveland the Guardian? Are the stoner guys The Guild? Does the movie critic really know all the storylines (since there are no new ones)? This is all funny, and perfectly enjoyable, but it makes all the characters into, well, characters. I don’t love them. They don’t feel real because they aren’t. But that’s not the point.
       The point is the story, and the story needs help, because it’s all clichés now.
       We all know that there aren’t any new stories, just twists on old ones. Just ancient tales, retold from new perspectives. Nothing is new under the sun. We know about the Hero with a Thousand Faces and comparitive mythology. We know the génres, conventions, and plots.
       And so does M. Night Shyamalan. And this brings me to the daring part of this movie, the part that I’m sure many critics and viewers will give M. Night Shyamalan, as the writer and director of this movie, lots of shit about. It’d be easy to call him egomaniacal and use this movie as evidence.
       That writer that Story is looking for? That writer is M. Night Shyamalan. He plays that character, and he is the writer. He makes himself into The One who will write the world-saving-words. This isn’t subtle. This movie, written by M. Night Shyamalan is about how a writer, played by M. Night Shyamalan, will write the “seeds of change.” So is he full of himself? Is his ego too big, the result of one too many financial successes in Hollywood? It’s easy to say yes.
       But I don’t think so.
       I think more than anything this is his deepest, most strongest desire. He wants to change the world. He wants to be the cause of a transformative revolution. He wants it more than anything. He wants it so badly that he made this movie in a vain attempt at future-creation, hoping that life will imitate art. Praying that form will follow fiction. This is M. Night Shyamalan’s great secret.
       There’s a theme in this movie about secrets. Even after the various characters are unified in their purpose, they can’t succeed until Cleveland tells them all the big secret of his past.
       This movie is all M. Night has, and he has dared to bare all to the world. This is his secret, because although he wants more than anything to change the world, he doesn’t know how. As a big-time movie director, he knows he has power. But he doesn’t know what to do with it. He feels helpless, and this is his confession. He’ll get shit for it. And maybe he should, but it’s nothing if not daring. This is him saying he wishes he knew what to do, but he doesn’t. Instead, all he can offer for us is the same old fairy tale. A familiar Story/story from a new angle. Find your purpose. Be who you are. Save our story.
       Story needs to find a world-saving writer. Could it be you?

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2 Responses to “Lady in the Water”

  1. historyoflosers July 24, 2006 at 6:02 pm #

    I have no opinion about this movie…
    but I came across this line in a review of it: “watching the movie feels a bit like walking in on your roommate while he’s masturbating … to a picture of himself.”
    Ouch! The rest of the review is here:
    http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/view.php?id=12636

    • junorhane July 25, 2006 at 3:27 pm #

      Re: I have no opinion about this movie…
      Ouch… but… what made him feel dirty watching it? Weird.

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