Films > The Happening

Safety in Numbers (spoilers)

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If you read the title of this thread, you're already thinking...right?

It just hit me a few minutes ago that this phrase is recurring throughout the movie. In a psychological sense (the math teacher's beliefs) numbers make you FEEL safe, but as we see (according to the film) in a physical sense, numbers do nothing to protect you. In fact, when it comes to the toxin, the opposite is true - congregating in numbers increases your chance of dying. We see an almost-direct attack on the idea of safety in numbers when the math teacher tries to make people in the jeep feel better by giving them a math puzzle, and they all die anyway.
Do you think it was Shyamalan's intention to send this message? Does he believe that big cities and overpopulation are killing us? Making us less safe? Does he believe in breaking away from "the crowd" in a philosophical sense? What do you think?

Dr Malcolm Crowe:
I'm sure Night had a purpose introducing this notion and playing with it in the film. I'm not quite sure what his commentary or view on it would be/is.

It is a bit tricky to dissect it all.

I feel like the big cities/overpopulation viewpoint could probably be thrown out. From the "safety in numbers" idea as a false consolation angle, I think it falls short. Cities really don't make anyone feel safer. In terms of an actual threat, whether city is safer or not, I don't believe it works either. We see in the film that people die in the city, but even the loner (Mrs. Jones) who lives by herself out in the country isn't safe.

I think "breaking away from the crowd" is a more plausible scenario. This could be a philosophy, so to speak, that he practices in his personal and even professional life. He doesn't live in Hollywood like other major filmmakers. He doesn't make very traditional mainstream films, nor does he really follow the idea of group viewpoint when it comes to telling stories. Each film feels like it's a very personal statement from him.

Wouldn't you say city dwellers generally think of themselves as being in a better position than people not in the cities? More civilized? Better equipped? Maybe not safer from a military type attack, but more prepared to deal with natural "disasters".

I really believe in the philosophical view of breaking away, too. Anyone who knows Shyamalan knows he is infamous for going against popular culture. (maybe that's what makes him so popular among our type)

A couple other considerations:
1the girl incoherently talking about algebra before she jumped out of her window, and
2the lack of a 'rational explanation' for the disappearance of bees. (The phrase  "rational explanation" bringing to mind a numbers or logical approach)

Interesting topic and interesting posts.

The story in the film represents 'numbers.' Both you guys (Malcome and Namaste) have good points. "The Happening" is taking a different route. A little bit of a tricky detour and tells us that overpopulation in general is becoming a big issue.

We are exceeding the capacity of our habitat. We are in fact becoming a threat to our own environment. And in the film it shows the cities are in danger and also someone like Mrs. Jones is in danger as well who is alone and this clearly indicates that due to overpopulation the earth may not sustain a larger number.

Yeah, so that's another way The Happening turns "safety in numbers" on its head. When people congregate in too-large numbers (in pre-green culture) it is absolutely detrimental to their natural environment, and therefore, ultimately unsafe for them.


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