7 Things I Learned from M. Night Shyamalan | WEEKLY 7
Some spoilers for Unbreakable, Split, and The Village lie ahead.
My most anticipated film of the year, Glass, is coming out this week. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the sequel to 2001's Unbreakable and 2017's Split is getting early mixed reviews from critics. However, anyone familiar with his career knows that mixed reviews aren't anything new for Shyamalan. After some knockout thrillers, he hit a rough patch before his major comeback The Visit. I really like him as a filmmaker--amongst my friends I'm a The Village apologist--so to kick off the first new segment of the new year, The Weekly 7, here are 7 Things I've Learned from M. Night Shyamalan!
1. Take Opportunities
M. Night Shyamalan didn't just break out with The Sixth Sense. Before he got Oscar nods, he was directing student films and writing studio scripts, including She's All That and Stuart Little. Part of my 2019 mantra of "Momentum" is all about this: even if it's not a passion project, we shouldn't shirk it because it's experience and it can lead to exciting things down the road - whatever "It" is!
2. Trust Your Gut...
What I find admirable about M. Night Shyamalan as an artist is that he tells the stories he wants to tell. He had the brave idea to make Split a secret sequel to Unbreakable, which in the mind of the general public was overshadowed by The Sixth Sense and The Village. Now the completion of the trilogy is releasing on Friday. And no one would doubt that Shymalan has an author's vision for his projects, no matter how they're received.
3. ...But Also Learn from Your Mistakes
Of course, there's the infamous patch of work that wasn't generally received well. But Shyamalan didn't just mire there. He went off and made The Visit and Split practically out of pocket! In an interview with Vulture, he talks about his lessons. Since leaving the big-budget sphere of The Last Airbender and After Earth, he has said he's found creative freedom in the smaller budget, which avant-gardist Maya Deren (Meshes of the Afternoon) preached after death. He sees directorial errors in The Happening. But even in failure and success he finds peace: "You may need to fail, in terms of public perception, so that you can go back and do exactly what you want to do."
4. Know Thy Art
If you follow M. Night Shyamalan on Twitter, it's more than apparent that he loves the art of storytelling. It's also apparent he loves experiencing other artists' stories, learning from them and celebrating them. Shyamalan is more than an artist; he's a student of the art. One of my goals for this website is to continue to be a student of the cinema by analyzing it with you, so that my stories can be just as effective as the stories and styles I love.
5. Everything Has a Purpose
At the moment, Signs is my favorite M. Night film. From the performances to the Hitchcockian tension (great double feature: Signs and The Birds), it's a wonderfully solid film and script especially this scene. But the theme that there is a cosmic God who works everything to a purpose really resonates for me as a man of faith. The episodes of Father Graham Hess (Mel Gibson)'s tragedies, bitterness, and doubt transform into unity, forgiveness, and belief through no mere coincidences. That gives me hope.
6. Love Is the Most Powerful Thing
It's a thing we hear often, but it's still easy to ignore. The Village beautifully displays a story of passionate love, and the lengths two people will go to save those they hold dear in their hearts. Love is matter of great sacrifice, with Joaquin Phoenix's Lucius willing to face the woods to bring healing to his village, and blind Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) doing the same to save him. It's when love is replaced by fear, hate, and envy that we become monsters. Love does the incredible. And it produces James Newton Howard's masterclass score.
7. Everyone Matters
In the first two films of the Unbreakable trilogy, the villains Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) and Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) become what they are because they were rejected. Kevin's persona The Beast rejoices at Casey's (Anya Taylor-Joy) scars, as his broken mind sees their common abuse as the next evolution of humanity. Elijah, after revealing to David (Bruce Willis) his acts of terrorism, desperately declares that he has found his purpose and knows who he is: the arch-enemy to a superhero. After years of to find his own unbreakable opposite after decades of ridicule for his condition, he whispers with pride, "They called me Mister Glass." The lack of love destroys; everyone matters and deserves love.
Now on to you: what have been your takeaways from M. Night Shyamalan's films and career? Are you looking forward to Glass? Whatever you have to say about me or the movies, comment below!