Lady in the Water

Status
Not open for further replies.

weinhold

Puritan Board Freshman
Before posting my thoughts on Shyamalan's latest film, Lady in the Water, I am compelled to make what I feel is an important observation. I have purposely placed this discussion in the "Library" forum, because good films are not mere entertainment. In fact, film is meant to be "read" in much the same way that one reads a novel or drama or poem. Also, my purpose in writing these brief remarks is to promote discussion, so please respond with any thoughts or criticisms that you may have of my reading.

Oh, and also... SPOILER WARNING!






Though sadly our culture seems on the verge of losing its collective imagination, there are those few brave poets and artists who are seeking to reclaim an awareness of story, myth, spirit, and imagination. The filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan´s recent film Lady in the Water provides an example of such creative determination to recover muthos, or story, for the modern world.
As the film begins, "œopening titles play against crude chalk drawings, reminding us that story telling is an ancient and universal impulse..." (Anne Brodie) Following Shyamalan´s tantalizing opening is a fairy-tale set in the modern world, which has been likened by one critic to a medieval tapestry. The plot tells of an ancient sea nymph (called a Narf) who magically enters the human world through a hotel swimming pool. Her name is Story. Cleveland Heep, the hotel custodian, discovers her and becomes her caretaker, helping her to complete her purpose in the world and return home. Upon meeting Vick Ran (Shyamalan), Story inspires him to complete a book that will someday enable a great leader to rise and bring peace to the earth. Her task completed, however, Story´s return is prevented by grass-dwelling wolves called Scrunts. The bulk of the film thus concerns itself with the efforts of Cleveland Heep, and others in the hotel, to help Story safely meet a magic eagle who will carry her back to her home world.
You have probably already noticed the fantastic nature of Shyamalan´s film, and how it somewhat mirrors fairy-tales or ghost stories. The effect is intentional. Shyamalan´s purpose, and this seems true for all his films, is to open our imaginations and our souls to the invisible presences that the modern world tells us do not exist. Faulkner called them the "œold verities," the Greeks called them the Furies. These are the invisible presences that drive our culture, that make our religion more than moralism. Lady in the Water tells a universal story of contact with the otherworldly, the demonic and the divine. The film places human beings clumsily in the middle of an epic moment, during which they triumph through communal faith and hope. And it tells of Story, a savior, Christ-figure, Muse, and Holy Spirit. She is a visitor from another realm whose coming had been prophesied in bedtime stories. She inspires the writing of a book that will someday change the world. She brings a sense of community to the hotel and purpose to its individual residents. She awakens certain magical powers such as Healer, Guardian, Interpreter, and Guild. She is attacked and dies, only to be magically revived and ascend into the heavens.
In addition to these parallels to the Christian tradition, Shyamalan´s film asserts a method for poetic reading. Consider, for example, a scene in which Cleveland discovers the Interpreter, a young boy with the power to read hidden messages from Story´s home world. Reading from a conglomeration of cereal boxes, the boy provides a crucial message that ultimately allows Story to return home. What strikes me about this scene in the film is that it is a powerful analogy for the mode of knowledge provided by literature. Like the young boy in the film, we must learn to take in the spiritual significance of ordinary things if we are to understand the spiritual messages that are so important. We may liken such an approach to the Christian Eucharist, or Communion, during which ordinary bread and wine takes on spiritual meaning. In short, we must learn to understand the meaning of the symbols.
While a film like Shyamalan´s Lady in the Water or a fantasy book like C.S. Lewis´ Chronicles of Narnia or even Tolkien´s Lord of the Rings effectively and rightly open our imaginations, these are at bottom not as great as the classic texts of the Western Tradition. And so while such poetic efforts do contain certain elements of the classic texts, we are best served when we understand them alongside works such as The Iliad, Exodus, The Aeneid, and Crime and Punishment. Such books engage in the constructive project of civilization, and offer an even better perspective, not upon Middle Earth or Narnia, but on our own world. But what I am advocating is that the way we approach the classic texts should be similar to the way we watch a film like Lady in the Water or read a book like The Two Towers. We must open our imaginations. We must experience the world of the poet fully. We must submit ourselves to what might seem strange or immoral to us. And we must learn to read the symbols, to see the eternal through the ordinary. If we really commit ourselves to these things, then we will not only learn how to read great literature, we will transform our very souls.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Thank you for the very well written review Paul. You certainly have a gift for wordsmithing. The only problem is that after your remarkably erudite presentation it's hard for guys like me to say, "I really, really liked this movie and it was worth $5.50. It made me think." ;)

Actually I haven't seen it yet but your review has given me the urge. Blessings friend.

BTW, I really, really liked your review. It made me think. :)

[Edited on 7-28-2006 by BobVigneault]
 

weinhold

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
:ditto: "That willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith." -- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Great quote! Coleridge definitely offers helpful insight here.
 

Cheshire Cat

Puritan Board Sophomore
I disagree. It seemed to me this film was an outlet for Shyamalan´s political and religious leanings (obviously Hinduism). "œAll men are connected", All is one, etc., etc. I can make no parallels between this film and Christianity. That would be a far stretch for sure. The film was funny at times and that is about it. I would save your money on this one. I´m not even sure if I would rent it"¦
 

weinhold

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by caleb_woodrow
I disagree. It seemed to me this film was an outlet for Shyamalan´s political and religious leanings (obviously Hinduism). "œAll men are connected", All is one, etc., etc. I can make no parallels between this film and Christianity. That would be a far stretch for sure. The film was funny at times and that is about it. I would save your money on this one. I´m not even sure if I would rent it"¦

Caleb, could you please elaborate on your statement that "the film was an outlet for Shyamalan's political and religious leanings (obviously Hinduism)." I am curious about any specifics of the Hindu faith that you observed in the film, particularly any that are antithetical to Christianity.
 

Cheshire Cat

Puritan Board Sophomore
Well, there were many hints at it in the movie. I will try to remember some of them. I remember when Story was telling Vick Ran about how he is going to be martyred, she says that men just don't realize that they are all connected, etc., at least something to that effect. Mostly it has to do with Rack Van's book that will change the world. There were alot of implications of unity that would take place and such. I don't think we can read Christian symbolism into this myth. Also, the stick figures at the beginning show just how far fetched the plot really was! It wasn't a terribly boring movie. It was just kind of bleh.
 

weinhold

Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by caleb_woodrow
Well, there were many hints at it in the movie. I will try to remember some of them. I remember when Story was telling Vick Ran about how he is going to be martyred, she says that men just don't realize that they are all connected, etc., at least something to that effect. Mostly it has to do with Rack Van's book that will change the world. There were alot of implications of unity that would take place and such. I don't think we can read Christian symbolism into this myth. Also, the stick figures at the beginning show just how far fetched the plot really was! It wasn't a terribly boring movie. It was just kind of bleh.

Forgive me, but I still don't quite understand how the idea of humanity's connectedness and unity is either particular to the Hindu faith, or antithetical to Christianity. Could you please help me understand what you mean?
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top