by Paul Martin, 21 July 2006, upon first viewing
Lady in the Water is a film of wonder, showcasing the amazing mind of M. Night Shyamalan. It takes you into a tapestry of wonder, and like all of his films, the pieces can be wound in many different ways. It is only as the movie draws near to the end that you understand that what the movie is about, isn’t what you thought in the first place. And when you realize what it is truly about, you can see the whole film in another light entirely.
The first thing that I began to notice was just how full of diversity the film actually is. The many characters that inhabit that world are people from many walks of life, that have all been brought together to serve a specific purpose. The way the characters interact with the world around them makes the set feel lived in, and it feels like they’ve all lived in that world for quite some time. There are many eccentric characters that help to bring you along on the story.
One major facet of the film is that we are all connected. What one person does can, and will effect the world around them. Even the smallest of things can change someone else’s world. Take a telescope, point it at a star, and take in what you see. Now, move the telescope half an inch in any direction. That half inch may not seem like much, but what you are seeing has changed almost completely. You’re also seeing parts of space that are millions and millions of miles away from the point of origin. That is what happens when the characters begin to use the many talents that they have been given.
Cleveland Heap is the connective tissue for the lives of all of the people in The Cove. He helps them with their problems, and talks to everyone. They all trust him immensely. He’s a big part of each of their lives, and he doesn’t even realize it, nor can he fathom just how much he actually does for the people around him.
Many of us feel just like that, sometimes. Does what I do really matter? Am I the right man for the job? Because anyone can do this work, is it really going to make a difference? With so much evil in the world, is there room for faith? Mr. Shyamalan masterfully reminds us of things that can be found on the pages of Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. That we are all connected, that what we do truly matters, and that there is always room for faith.
This brings us to the next layer of the film: faith. This is the part that, I feel, strikes a chord with many. This is the part where the division happens. You see, the film makes a statement, and through all of the storytelling, it is believing that is the key; that having faith in something makes us stronger than we would have been without it. Why does it divide the audience, though? Well, the simple fact is that faith is very personal. People have it, people don’t, everyone wants it, even if they don’t know it, and some try to deny it, and it can bring anger our of people that aren’t willing to believe in a story.
The fact that M. Night can deliver a story that is so personal, and take us with him on a ride of personal discovery that takes us in so much that some of us get scared, shows a lot. It shows that he is actually a more effective storyteller than many give him credit for, and that they are actually effecting us, personally, and for some, that is scary.
Stories are an essential part of growing as a human. They teach us right from wrong, they teach us about ourselves, and about the world we live in. They take us to worlds that we have never been. We can choose to accept it, or to deny it. The very fact that this film is set in our world is part of the struggle that people may have with it. The other is that, it tells us about new mythological creatures, and through this, it makes us understand something that many people try to deny: that some stories are real. They may not be real in the way that we first see them. They can seem like ordinary everyday things, at times.. but when we look at things with fresh eyes, everything can look totally different.
All of the many different characters share different talents, and none of them are wasted, even when things seem to be going worse than they seem, it has an effect that aids the story, and brings out things in people that we have only glimpsed fractions of throughout. As our hero begins his monologue, we are seeing a man that is broken, that has been hurt so much, and suffered so much, and now he is going through the same realization that many of us go through, and we see him change. We hear him say things that challenge us. And we see him, finally breaking down, and acknowledging that yes, some stories are real, and we need only open our eyes to see it.
The score, masterfully composed by James Newton Howard, is again just as layered as the film itself. The music soars as it takes you along on a journey that you’ve never walked, into a world you’ve never been, and if you let go of yourself, and allow the characters to just be who they are, you’ll find yourself captivated by a new world, and wishing to learn more about it. The music isn’t overwhelming to the story, and adds such depth to the characters, that, upon listening to the score on a CD, you are taken back to the spirit of the film.
This is a film that is full of faith, hope and charity. It is full of wonder and awe, magic and creation. It is a film of self-discovery and relearning what it is like to have the faith of a child. There are light-hearted moments, great laughs and tension-filled moments. Moments of sadness and heartache, and moments of joy. I hope that you can all enjoy it as much as I have.
Second Screening Review, 23 July 2006
This time, I’m going to talk about some of the finer points of the film. It will contain spoilers, so if you want to go into the film knowing nothing, and you do, then please avoid this section until you’ve seen it.
I’ve now seen Lady in the Water twice, and it not only holds up to a second screening, but more is there to be found. When analyzing the film and talking about it afterward, my friends and I started quoting a few of the catch phrases found within’ the film. “Blim Blam” and “Baby’s on the Half Tip” are just fun phrases to say.
Now, there was one seemingly innocuous scene in which the critic spoke of a movie that he had just seen. He mentioned that he was pretty annoyed that the characters decided to talk things out in the rain. Cleveland defends it saying that it’s probably symbolic for a cleansing of their lives, and they can now lead their lives anew, but the critic quickly shuts that idea down. This scene has two very distinct meanings.
The first is probably that M. Night’s films have symbolism and that they are more than many critics give them credit for, but that’s the obvious deduction.
The second, and more important one, is that it references, very clearly, the end of the film. It tells us, in plain english, what is happening. That characters’ lives are changing and they are being baptised into their new lives, with their new purposes defined. Story is able to be made free and become the Madam Narf that she was born to be. Cleveland’s life was changed and Story had saved his life. He now found purpose. He was able to say goodbye to his family, because of Story.
Cleveland Heep: I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you. Oh, I should have been there, I am always going to regret… just not being there. I miss your faces. They remind me of God. I’m so lost without you guys. I met this very nice lady, and her name’s Story. I think you would have liked her. I think she might be… an Angel, because she has to go home. I love you all, I love you all so much.
The last shots were filmed from beneath the surface of the water, and the closing shot is of Cleveland, from below as well. This shows a saturation of the symbolic element of a new life beginning.
From the start of the film, something small that I noticed is that Cleveland never sleeps in his bed. The only time we see his bed, it is made, and Story had just lied him there, after he nearly drowned. I think this is because he can’t bear sleeping in a bed without longing for his wife. By the end, he is a changed man, however. Cleveland has learned how to listen, and he has learned that his live does have a purpose, a purpose that he didn’t know of before.
Through Cleveland, many of the tenets of The Cove also learned of their many talents, and I believe that they have discovered that, even though they just happen to live in the same place, that they are all connected in very real ways. Each person is important to the story and to making sure that things work out.