MNightFans.com

Films => Lady in the Water => Topic started by: enalpa nosekans on July 25, 2006, 08:18:50 PM

Title: The Meaning
Post by: enalpa nosekans on July 25, 2006, 08:18:50 PM
 Shyamalan warned his audience to keep an open mind while watching this movie. He released a "children's book" to help establish the fantasy before the movie came out. But the complexities of its meaning are hidden behind its "fairy tale" facade. And like all fairy tales, the depth of this masterpiece extends well beyond the simplicity at its surface. If you have the interest, the endurance, AND YOU HAVE ALREADY SEEN THIS FILM, please read on.

This is a story of one man?s struggle to regain his faith and sense of purpose by overcoming emotional detachment and repression in the aftermath of an unfathomable tragedy.

First, consider the name of the apartment complex - "The Cove". A cove is a harbor along a body of running water, a sheltered inlet, like a driveway on a busy street. It is a place of seclusion, perhaps even a place to hide. The complex itself is U-shaped, and has a pool at its center. We can imagine that beyond the pool is the reality of the outside world, the ?mainstream? of life. It is unknown, and something to be feared. Night has never made a movie that is so contained, so confined to a single location. The story takes place entirely within the Cove.

Now imagine that the Cove is not a physical location at all, but a world that exists only in one man's mind; and it is completely dependent upon and manipulated by his own psyche. People have commented on how the film's location lacks detail, that it is too simple, nondescript, childish, and unrealistic. This is not a flaw - this is by design. Cleveland Heep is its superintendent ? its caretaker - its ?healer?. And if the Cove is a product of one man's imagination, then its tenants must be as well. Cleveland has a casual familiarity with all of them. And they depend solely upon him for the mundane daily maintenance of their home - we never see his boss or any other employees. Moreover, the name ?Heep? itself might reflect not only the great burden he carries, but also the great number of different ?tenants? that comprise his psyche. *It is interesting to note that the British use the word ?cove? as slang to mean ?fellow? or ?man?. Similarly, the word ?Cleveland? has its roots in Old English, meaning ?cliff land?, and the Clevelands were known as people from the cliffs. It is perhaps an allusion to both Cleveland?s isolation and an image of instability, danger, and urgency ? ?bearing a great burden, teetering on the edge of a cliff?.

In this sense, ?The Lady in the Water? is arguably the most unique, imaginative, and ambitious tale of inner conflict and perseverance ever filmed. The struggle takes place within the secluded confines of an apartment complex, the tenants of which are, in this metaphorical sense, the separate, unique aspects of one man's damaged psyche. And each of them has a singular purpose in this fairy tale of faith, hope, and self-awakening. It is "a bedtime story", one of a particular type that we tell each other and ourselves before we sleep. These stories give us hope, comfort, and peace. We call them prayers.

The Cove is a close-knit community, and its tenants all seem to have lived there for some time. In fact, only two characters arrive during the movie's timeline - Story, the mythical narf, and Harry Farber, the movie critic (presumably named after legendary film critic, Manny Farber). And it is no coincidence that they show up at the same time - they are the dueling personifications of Cleveland's consuming inner conflict.

Story represents Cleveland's fractured and fragile faith in himself, in mankind, and in God. She is the hope for, and promise of, the belief in the unknown. Farber, by contrast, is the skeptic in Cleveland. His character is not simply a dig at Night's movie critics. He is the oppressive influence which closes Cleveland?s mind and forces him to see within "the rules", to accept that there is no originality left in the world, and nothing left to hope for. He defines the rules of Cleveland?s perception. Farber's simultaneous arrival represents the saboteur in Cleveland?s mind. He is the embodiment of Cleveland's debilitating doubt, generated to counter the arrival of Story ? his savior, the inspiration for his burgeoning faith and redemption of purpose, presumably sent by God. While Story is the image of childlike purity and endless possibility, Farber is the closed, tamed mind of the adult, limited in imagination, and numbed by the sicknesses of society. These are the main figures in the conflict between doubt-skepticism and hope-faith. Note that Farber "must be very good" at his job in order to have been sent to this place from so far away. He is an appropriate counterpart to Story, who turns out to be of the highest and presumably most powerful status of her kind ? a "Madam Narf". He is no ordinary critic, she is no ordinary narf. And it is fitting, as both Cleveland?s tragedy and his purpose are extraordinary.

The Cove?s pool is a metaphor for a man?s heart, once again incorporating Night?s connection of purity and innocence with water. Cleveland initially senses Story's presence in flashes - fleeting glimpses and the occasional sounds of splashing from the pool at night. Perhaps he has just enough faith left to recognize it when it is revealed. And he finds it in the pool, as one might find faith in the heart. She arrives naked, not only a reflection of the vulnerability of the fragile faith she represents, but a vision of the freedom and innocence that accompanies the purity of childlike inhibition. Far from able to embrace his faith, Cleveland is discomforted by her nakedness and gives her a shirt. His journal reveals to her the deep sorrow that presumably has led him to this place, and kept him lost from a life of fulfillment as a medical doctor. She reminds him that everyone has a purpose (a profound statement in the context of this story and its location). But watching Cleveland plead with Story to keep his secret from the tenants of the Cove, we witness the active repression of his pain and his debilitating inability to cope with the loss of his family. He cannot allow the separate aspects of his personality (the tenants) to experience the tragedy. Moreover, his crippling stutter (absent in her presence) is symptomatic of what appears to be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unable to experience the inspiration, the ?awakening? of her presence, he decides to help her complete her task and protect her from the ?scrunt? sent to kill her.

Cleveland is guided throughout by the character of Young-Soon, whose mother knows the ancient story behind this narf. Young-Soon is the child aspect of Cleveland?s mind that is willing to believe in fairy tales. Consider that as she translates the story to Cleveland from her mother, the two characters hear the story together for the first time. At one point, she even expresses a hope that the story is true. Her immaturity, her recurring childish exit line "bye, Mr. Heep", and even her name suggest that she is a child (despite her noteworthy height), and thus more amenable to the tales of magic and fantasy that are normally dismissed by adults. Her mother is uncomfortable translating the story in its entirety until Cleveland presents himself to her as a child. But if she is part of the Cove, then so must be the story itself ? perhaps heard long ago and buried in the subconscious, perhaps a complete fabrication, or possibly parts of both. It?s not surprising if you can accept that the Cove exists in the mind of a writer. Mrs. Choi is the elderly Korean woman from within the Cove (or invented by it) who becomes the source of this fairy tale. The adult psyche finds it easier to impede the conveyance of the unbelievable story by creating it in a foreign language and from the representation of a respected but unfamiliar source ? the perception of a wise and holistic people unbound by Western convention.

The ?scrunt? is the manifestation of the ills and evils of society, and the horrors of which man is capable, within Cleveland?s psyche. It is a monstrous form of the fear and anxiety that has denied Cleveland his ability to right his life since his crisis. It preys upon Story. It comes from outside the Cove, from the unknown reality beyond the pool, and it only fears the Tartutic. The Tartutic are the ?justice? for which Cleveland cries out when the scrunt attacks Story on the night she should be allowed to leave freely. They might more accurately be thought of as ?fate?, or as that which protects the course of predestination. They are the ?should?.

The one man who can control the scrunt is the "Guardian". Cleveland?s search for the guardian is the search for that part of himself that is able to face his fear, to "look it in the eye". When he misidentifies this figure as himself and confronts the scrunt, it attacks him. But only the two new arrivals, Story and Farber, appear vulnerable to physical harm by the scrunt. It?s danger to Cleveland?s own character is not actual ?death?, but the threat of the reinforcement of his fear and, consequently, his psychological dysfunction. Consider that when Cleveland is about to be attacked by the scrunt, he suddenly awakens (physically unharmed) with Farber standing above him, expressing his displeasure with some movie he has just seen, and arguing against the symbolic purity of water. Also consider that he is standing between Cleveland and the pool at the time, actualizing a metaphor of a man being denied the purity of his heart by his own skepticism and doubt. Cleveland actually credits Farber for having saved him from the scrunt. But Farber was not the savior - he was the trauma, the damage itself - the stifling of Cleveland?s belief, and the reinforcement of his doubt and inability to face his fear once again. It is a powerful crystallization of how Cleveland?s mind works against him.

Vick Ran (Shyamalan, himself), is ?the writer inspired by the Story?. His first words to Cleveland ? ?The light over my desk is still broken.? You can?t write without light, and it?s something Cleveland has been putting off. But a light is not a difficult fix, and Vick does not seem to be in a rush to finish his book. Cleveland sees the book by chance while repairing the light, and initially dismisses its content after observing its title, ?The Cookbook?. But he is soon reminded to never judge a book by its cover (how very appropriate).

Vick?s character is at least as important as Cleveland?s. The prediction of his future describes how his book will have a profound philosophical influence on the world, and how this socio-ideological impact would result in his own death. Vick draws an indirect comparison to Martin Luther King within the story itself; and we are reminded of other figures such as Christ, and of other doctrines, or ?cookbooks?, such as the Bible. Vick represents the ?purpose? that Story assures Cleveland he has not lost. He is the part of Cleveland?s psyche that is capable of accomplishing great things. Such endeavors, however, expose the psyche to harsh and potentially stifling criticism ? the ?murder? of the creative mind ? something of which Night himself has faced, and continues to face, far too much.

Whether writing ?The Cookbook? is the literal greatness, or purpose, of which Cleveland is capable, and whether the death of Vick Ran is the literal death of Cleveland Heep, is for the viewer to determine. But it is a reasonable conclusion, if you extend Cleveland?s role as the ?healer? to meaning the ?healer of mankind?. In this scenario, perhaps the pain of the tragedy he experienced would be the catalyst and inspiration for this doctor to attempt to change the world by writing a book. Conversely, it is conceivable that Vick Ran - the ?writer?, the ?purpose? - is the true subject of this story. He is the ?vessel? of Story?s inspiration, and the only part of himself that Cleveland can correctly identify before being influenced by the skeptical, closed-minded Farber. He shares Cleveland?s sad and quiet demeanor, his self-effacement - "I'm nothing special". He is single (as are just about all of the main players as far as we are aware), but cannot easily care for himself, to cook or clean, and relies on his sister in this domestic capacity. And he would be unaware that he has ever had a wife or children, as would all but two of the other tenants in the Cove, since that information has been repressed, hidden within Cleveland?s journal. Cleveland Heep, the ?healer?, may not actually be the man behind the psyche represented by the Cove, but only that part of the whole that is responsible for its healing. In this case, Cleveland?s task is to heal himself, Vick Ran ? the healer of mankind. Therefore, Cleveland?s inability to satisfy this obligation until he, himself - "the healer", is healed is the true meaning behind this story.

In his search for the remaining cast that is necessary for Story to return to the "Blue World" Cleveland seeks the advice of Farber, the man he erroneously identifies as ?the person whose opinion he respects?. This path ultimately culminates in a party (a celebration of Farber's arrival, no doubt!). And it is during what is, in essence, this celebration of skepticism and closed-mindedness that Story (Cleveland's faith) is dragged off and nearly killed. The series of misidentifications illustrates not only Cleveland?s detachment - his inability to know himself, but also the destructive process of another symptom of Cleveland's disturbed psyche - self-sabotage. So it is no coincidence that Cleveland cannot complete this task and accept that he is the ?healer" (of Story, his faith) until Farber (his skepticism) is killed by the scrunt.

?The Guardian? turns out to be Reggie, who wears the dog tags of a soldier. He is a normal man that is not consumed with, but only partially occupied by, a need for physical strength. After all, Reggie?s true power is ultimately not physical. Reggie is a representation of both Cleveland?s strength and lack of strength. His intentionally one-sided muscular development not only suggests Cleveland?s inability to utilize (or even identify) his inner strength, but also indicates a systematic, ?scientific? maintenance of an emotional imbalance and instability.

?The Interpreter? is originally thought to be Mr. Dury because of his proficiency with crossword puzzles. In actuality, the interpreter is his son, Joey. The selection emphasizes the ability of children to see things with a clarity and simplicity that becomes lost for adults as they become limited by social paradigms and restrictions. In fact, Mr. Dury at one point admits that his ability with puzzles and symbolism is limited to his crosswords. The loss of this childhood ability is poignantly illustrated by this father-son disparity - it is Mr. Dury that realizes that his son (presumably the child version of himself - "I'm gonna be just like my dad") is the real interpreter. The idea denotes the endurance of important childlike notions in Cleveland's psyche. It also refers to a psychological healing process that addresses the significance of childhood perceptions, and the subsequent development of emotions and coping strategies during childhood.

"Someone whose opinion Cleveland values" turns out to be the shut-in, Mr. Leeds. He is the only tenant who knows of Cleveland's tragedy (the only other part of his psyche from which it has not been completely repressed). Mr. Leeds "has been here forever". He sits in a dark room, surrounded by books, staring at images of war on television. His role is somewhat paternal - he refers to Cleveland as ?son? (?don?t become what I have?), and encourages him to ?not give up?. He somehow sees everything that?s going on around him in the Cove. He is Cleveland's conscience, his conviction - what some would consider to be functions of ?the Soul?. He is the inner voice, the moral compass that guides him. Even his name is significant. But he is the part of the Cove that has been most affected by the sins of mankind and the toxicity of society - "I wanted to believe more than anyone". In what is essentially inner dialogue, he questions aloud whether man should be saved - and Cleveland answers that he should be. In this moment, Cleveland expresses a desire to live - to be healed, and to rebuild the trust to reattach himself with society.

The "someone with no secrets" is Mr. Bubchik, the man who is unaware that his wife reveals his secrets. He represents the undeniable reality of Cleveland's weakness, his shortcomings, and his mortality. This candidness promotes a sense of honesty and comfort, a willingness to accept oneself despite one?s flaws. Mr. Bubchik represents that which Cleveland has no choice but to accept. And he provides Cleveland the opportunity to relieve himself of the guilt that has accompanied the burden of his secret. He cannot forgive himself for that over which he had no control - the inability to save his family ? unless he is able to openly share it with himself.

"The Guild? consists of seven women, a group formed to protect a common interest. The number seven is prominent in religion and mythology ? ?The Seven Divine Women? (in Khasi mythology), ?The Seven Sleeping Men? (in Christian mythology), ?The Seven Mothers? (in Hindu mythology), ?The Seven Virtues?, ?The Seven Sacraments?, and so forth. And a group of women is a representation of Cleveland's burgeoning sense of self worth - the empowerment of that which is generally perceived to be weak and undervalued (this is particularly true in many traditional Hispanic cultures which are known to be excessively misogynistic). The first scene of the movie (a clever foreshadowing) shows Cleveland trying to kill a "big, hairy" bug under the sink of a Hispanic family's apartment. In the background, we see the family's daughters brandishing makeshift weapons and squealing in fear of the bug. They make up five of the Guild's sisters. The others include Anna Ran, Vick's sister (who acts more as a mother to him at times), and Young-Soon, who makes an early reference to her sister who married a dentist, and who is invaluable in guiding Cleveland along his journey of self-awakening. The Guild assists Cleveland through their ?laying on of hands? in the climactic scene involving Story's healing and his own catharsis. The image illustrates Cleveland's need for emotional attachment (more typically associated with women and prohibited for men in Western culture) in order to connect with what he has repressed. Conversely, these women who provide emotional aid in this scene are armed and readily patrolling the pool's perimeter in the next. It?s a testament to the power of women to both heal and protect.

The group gathers together to ?bring strength to the moment? of Story?s (and Cleveland?s) healing and liberation. It is only then that he is able to reach catharsis. He reveals his tragedy to all aspects of himself, and releases the repressed pain and guilt that have kept him isolated in the Cove. It is at this moment that he is able to heal and embrace his hope and faith once again, leaving it safe and appropriate for the angelic Story to return to the Blue World on the wings of the Great Eatlon. Presumably, God?s angel has fulfilled her task to save a man ? indeed, all of mankind (she is the Madam Narf) - and returned to heaven.

Shyamalan has called this his most personal film - an especially significant statement, considering how personal all of his stories have been. In fact, he has referred to them as his ?children?. Criticism of ?The Village? stripped him of his credibility for his prior three great and well-received productions. So he cast himself as the writer whose inspiration by the Story helps him escape his doubt and heal his faith. Is ?The Lady in the Water?, then, the ?story? of his healing? Or is it the story that healed him? Or is it both?

This man is portrayed by many as an egomaniac. Yet he has done perhaps the most humble thing imaginable ? he?s created a story of amazing depth and value, but he has left it for the viewer to tie together. In this sense, he has created an incredible scenario in which the story is actually critical of the viewer. He writes stories that he would appreciate, and that a select group of the audience (however small) will appreciate. And he allows himself to be bashed for its simplicity and banality by those who can?t appreciate his effort, content that this inability is criticism enough of his critics. Think of this scenario in the context of this movie! It?s the most amazing thing I?ve ever seen in entertainment, and I only hope I?ve done it some justice.
Title: The Meaning
Post by: Dr Malcolm Crowe on July 25, 2006, 09:01:23 PM
 Wow, you sure did put some time into this huh? lol.
Thank you, you make I lot of great points! I agree, this is one of the best movies I've ever seen.
Title: The Meaning
Post by: Maya on July 25, 2006, 09:47:47 PM
 That was a really nicely detailed analysis.  Made me rethink some things.  Confirmed others.    
Title: The Meaning
Post by: Disastermind on July 25, 2006, 11:13:38 PM
 This movie...is it really the worst he's done? I had such high hopes for this movie...I have high hopes for all his movies. As I said in my intro, he is my favorite filmmaker. Even if the movie is bad, I will buy it and add it to my M. Night Shyamalan collection.
Title: The Meaning
Post by: Maya on July 26, 2006, 09:14:28 AM
 I don't think its the worst, i think its the best.
Title: The Meaning
Post by: bakerbread on July 28, 2006, 12:46:20 PM
QUOTE (enalpa nosekans @ Jul 25 2006, 08:18 PM)
Shyamalan warned his audience to keep an open mind while watching this movie. He released a "children's book" to help establish the fantasy before the movie came out. But the complexities of its meaning are hidden behind its "fairy tale" facade. And like all fairy tales, the depth of this masterpiece extends well beyond the simplicity at its surface. If you have the interest, the endurance, AND YOU HAVE ALREADY SEEN THIS FILM, please read on.

This is a story of one man?s struggle to regain his faith and sense of purpose by overcoming emotional detachment and repression in the aftermath of an unfathomable tragedy.

First, consider the name of the apartment complex - "The Cove". A cove is a harbor along a body of running water, a sheltered inlet, like a driveway on a busy street. It is a place of seclusion, perhaps even a place to hide. The complex itself is U-shaped, and has a pool at its center. We can imagine that beyond the pool is the reality of the outside world, the ?mainstream? of life. It is unknown, and something to be feared. Night has never made a movie that is so contained, so confined to a single location. The story takes place entirely within the Cove.

Now imagine that the Cove is not a physical location at all, but a world that exists only in one man's mind; and it is completely dependent upon and manipulated by his own psyche. People have commented on how the film's location lacks detail, that it is too simple, nondescript, childish, and unrealistic. This is not a flaw - this is by design. Cleveland Heep is its superintendent ? its caretaker - its ?healer?. And if the Cove is a product of one man's imagination, then its tenants must be as well. Cleveland has a casual familiarity with all of them. And they depend solely upon him for the mundane daily maintenance of their home - we never see his boss or any other employees. Moreover, the name ?Heep? itself might reflect not only the great burden he carries, but also the great number of different ?tenants? that comprise his psyche. *It is interesting to note that the British use the word ?cove? as slang to mean ?fellow? or ?man?. Similarly, the word ?Cleveland? has its roots in Old English, meaning ?cliff land?, and the Clevelands were known as people from the cliffs. It is perhaps an allusion to both Cleveland?s isolation and an image of instability, danger, and urgency ? ?bearing a great burden, teetering on the edge of a cliff?.

In this sense, ?The Lady in the Water? is arguably the most unique, imaginative, and ambitious tale of inner conflict and perseverance ever filmed. The struggle takes place within the secluded confines of an apartment complex, the tenants of which are, in this metaphorical sense, the separate, unique aspects of one man's damaged psyche. And each of them has a singular purpose in this fairy tale of faith, hope, and self-awakening. It is "a bedtime story", one of a particular type that we tell each other and ourselves before we sleep. These stories give us hope, comfort, and peace. We call them prayers.

The Cove is a close-knit community, and its tenants all seem to have lived there for some time. In fact, only two characters arrive during the movie's timeline - Story, the mythical narf, and Harry Farber, the movie critic (presumably named after legendary film critic, Manny Farber). And it is no coincidence that they show up at the same time - they are the dueling personifications of Cleveland's consuming inner conflict.

Story represents Cleveland's fractured and fragile faith in himself, in mankind, and in God. She is the hope for, and promise of, the belief in the unknown. Farber, by contrast, is the skeptic in Cleveland. His character is not simply a dig at Night's movie critics. He is the oppressive influence which closes Cleveland?s mind and forces him to see within "the rules", to accept that there is no originality left in the world, and nothing left to hope for. He defines the rules of Cleveland?s perception. Farber's simultaneous arrival represents the saboteur in Cleveland?s mind. He is the embodiment of Cleveland's debilitating doubt, generated to counter the arrival of Story ? his savior, the inspiration for his burgeoning faith and redemption of purpose, presumably sent by God. While Story is the image of childlike purity and endless possibility, Farber is the closed, tamed mind of the adult, limited in imagination, and numbed by the sicknesses of society. These are the main figures in the conflict between doubt-skepticism and hope-faith. Note that Farber "must be very good" at his job in order to have been sent to this place from so far away. He is an appropriate counterpart to Story, who turns out to be of the highest and presumably most powerful status of her kind ? a "Madam Narf". He is no ordinary critic, she is no ordinary narf. And it is fitting, as both Cleveland?s tragedy and his purpose are extraordinary.

The Cove?s pool is a metaphor for a man?s heart, once again incorporating Night?s connection of purity and innocence with water. Cleveland initially senses Story's presence in flashes - fleeting glimpses and the occasional sounds of splashing from the pool at night. Perhaps he has just enough faith left to recognize it when it is revealed. And he finds it in the pool, as one might find faith in the heart. She arrives naked, not only a reflection of the vulnerability of the fragile faith she represents, but a vision of the freedom and innocence that accompanies the purity of childlike inhibition. Far from able to embrace his faith, Cleveland is discomforted by her nakedness and gives her a shirt. His journal reveals to her the deep sorrow that presumably has led him to this place, and kept him lost from a life of fulfillment as a medical doctor. She reminds him that everyone has a purpose (a profound statement in the context of this story and its location). But watching Cleveland plead with Story to keep his secret from the tenants of the Cove, we witness the active repression of his pain and his debilitating inability to cope with the loss of his family. He cannot allow the separate aspects of his personality (the tenants) to experience the tragedy. Moreover, his crippling stutter (absent in her presence) is symptomatic of what appears to be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unable to experience the inspiration, the ?awakening? of her presence, he decides to help her complete her task and protect her from the ?scrunt? sent to kill her.

Cleveland is guided throughout by the character of Young-Soon, whose mother knows the ancient story behind this narf. Young-Soon is the child aspect of Cleveland?s mind that is willing to believe in fairy tales. Consider that as she translates the story to Cleveland from her mother, the two characters hear the story together for the first time. At one point, she even expresses a hope that the story is true. Her immaturity, her recurring childish exit line "bye, Mr. Heep", and even her name suggest that she is a child (despite her noteworthy height), and thus more amenable to the tales of magic and fantasy that are normally dismissed by adults. Her mother is uncomfortable translating the story in its entirety until Cleveland presents himself to her as a child. But if she is part of the Cove, then so must be the story itself ? perhaps heard long ago and buried in the subconscious, perhaps a complete fabrication, or possibly parts of both. It?s not surprising if you can accept that the Cove exists in the mind of a writer. Mrs. Choi is the elderly Korean woman from within the Cove (or invented by it) who becomes the source of this fairy tale. The adult psyche finds it easier to impede the conveyance of the unbelievable story by creating it in a foreign language and from the representation of a respected but unfamiliar source ? the perception of a wise and holistic people unbound by Western convention.

The ?scrunt? is the manifestation of the ills and evils of society, and the horrors of which man is capable, within Cleveland?s psyche. It is a monstrous form of the fear and anxiety that has denied Cleveland his ability to right his life since his crisis. It preys upon Story. It comes from outside the Cove, from the unknown reality beyond the pool, and it only fears the Tartutic. The Tartutic are the ?justice? for which Cleveland cries out when the scrunt attacks Story on the night she should be allowed to leave freely. They might more accurately be thought of as ?fate?, or as that which protects the course of predestination. They are the ?should?.

The one man who can control the scrunt is the "Guardian". Cleveland?s search for the guardian is the search for that part of himself that is able to face his fear, to "look it in the eye". When he misidentifies this figure as himself and confronts the scrunt, it attacks him. But only the two new arrivals, Story and Farber, appear vulnerable to physical harm by the scrunt. It?s danger to Cleveland?s own character is not actual ?death?, but the threat of the reinforcement of his fear and, consequently, his psychological dysfunction. Consider that when Cleveland is about to be attacked by the scrunt, he suddenly awakens (physically unharmed) with Farber standing above him, expressing his displeasure with some movie he has just seen, and arguing against the symbolic purity of water. Also consider that he is standing between Cleveland and the pool at the time, actualizing a metaphor of a man being denied the purity of his heart by his own skepticism and doubt. Cleveland actually credits Farber for having saved him from the scrunt. But Farber was not the savior - he was the trauma, the damage itself - the stifling of Cleveland?s belief, and the reinforcement of his doubt and inability to face his fear once again. It is a powerful crystallization of how Cleveland?s mind works against him.

Vick Ran (Shyamalan, himself), is ?the writer inspired by the Story?. His first words to Cleveland ? ?The light over my desk is still broken.? You can?t write without light, and it?s something Cleveland has been putting off. But a light is not a difficult fix, and Vick does not seem to be in a rush to finish his book. Cleveland sees the book by chance while repairing the light, and initially dismisses its content after observing its title, ?The Cookbook?. But he is soon reminded to never judge a book by its cover (how very appropriate).

Vick?s character is at least as important as Cleveland?s. The prediction of his future describes how his book will have a profound philosophical influence on the world, and how this socio-ideological impact would result in his own death. Vick draws an indirect comparison to Martin Luther King within the story itself; and we are reminded of other figures such as Christ, and of other doctrines, or ?cookbooks?, such as the Bible. Vick represents the ?purpose? that Story assures Cleveland he has not lost. He is the part of Cleveland?s psyche that is capable of accomplishing great things. Such endeavors, however, expose the psyche to harsh and potentially stifling criticism ? the ?murder? of the creative mind ? something of which Night himself has faced, and continues to face, far too much.

Whether writing ?The Cookbook? is the literal greatness, or purpose, of which Cleveland is capable, and whether the death of Vick Ran is the literal death of Cleveland Heep, is for the viewer to determine. But it is a reasonable conclusion, if you extend Cleveland?s role as the ?healer? to meaning the ?healer of mankind?. In this scenario, perhaps the pain of the tragedy he experienced would be the catalyst and inspiration for this doctor to attempt to change the world by writing a book. Conversely, it is conceivable that Vick Ran - the ?writer?, the ?purpose? - is the true subject of this story. He is the ?vessel? of Story?s inspiration, and the only part of himself that Cleveland can correctly identify before being influenced by the skeptical, closed-minded Farber. He shares Cleveland?s sad and quiet demeanor, his self-effacement - "I'm nothing special". He is single (as are just about all of the main players as far as we are aware), but cannot easily care for himself, to cook or clean, and relies on his sister in this domestic capacity. And he would be unaware that he has ever had a wife or children, as would all but two of the other tenants in the Cove, since that information has been repressed, hidden within Cleveland?s journal. Cleveland Heep, the ?healer?, may not actually be the man behind the psyche represented by the Cove, but only that part of the whole that is responsible for its healing. In this case, Cleveland?s task is to heal himself, Vick Ran ? the healer of mankind. Therefore, Cleveland?s inability to satisfy this obligation until he, himself - "the healer", is healed is the true meaning behind this story.

In his search for the remaining cast that is necessary for Story to return to the "Blue World" Cleveland seeks the advice of Farber, the man he erroneously identifies as ?the person whose opinion he respects?. This path ultimately culminates in a party (a celebration of Farber's arrival, no doubt!). And it is during what is, in essence, this celebration of skepticism and closed-mindedness that Story (Cleveland's faith) is dragged off and nearly killed. The series of misidentifications illustrates not only Cleveland?s detachment - his inability to know himself, but also the destructive process of another symptom of Cleveland's disturbed psyche - self-sabotage. So it is no coincidence that Cleveland cannot complete this task and accept that he is the ?healer" (of Story, his faith) until Farber (his skepticism) is killed by the scrunt.

?The Guardian? turns out to be Reggie, who wears the dog tags of a soldier. He is a normal man that is not consumed with, but only partially occupied by, a need for physical strength. After all, Reggie?s true power is ultimately not physical. Reggie is a representation of both Cleveland?s strength and lack of strength. His intentionally one-sided muscular development not only suggests Cleveland?s inability to utilize (or even identify) his inner strength, but also indicates a systematic, ?scientific? maintenance of an emotional imbalance and instability.

?The Interpreter? is originally thought to be Mr. Dury because of his proficiency with crossword puzzles. In actuality, the interpreter is his son, Joey. The selection emphasizes the ability of children to see things with a clarity and simplicity that becomes lost for adults as they become limited by social paradigms and restrictions. In fact, Mr. Dury at one point admits that his ability with puzzles and symbolism is limited to his crosswords. The loss of this childhood ability is poignantly illustrated by this father-son disparity - it is Mr. Dury that realizes that his son (presumably the child version of himself - "I'm gonna be just like my dad") is the real interpreter. The idea denotes the endurance of important childlike notions in Cleveland's psyche. It also refers to a psychological healing process that addresses the significance of childhood perceptions, and the subsequent development of emotions and coping strategies during childhood.

"Someone whose opinion Cleveland values" turns out to be the shut-in, Mr. Leeds. He is the only tenant who knows of Cleveland's tragedy (the only other part of his psyche from which it has not been completely repressed). Mr. Leeds "has been here forever". He sits in a dark room, surrounded by books, staring at images of war on television. His role is somewhat paternal - he refers to Cleveland as ?son? (?don?t become what I have?), and encourages him to ?not give up?. He somehow sees everything that?s going on around him in the Cove. He is Cleveland's conscience, his conviction - what some would consider to be functions of ?the Soul?. He is the inner voice, the moral compass that guides him. Even his name is significant. But he is the part of the Cove that has been most affected by the sins of mankind and the toxicity of society - "I wanted to believe more than anyone". In what is essentially inner dialogue, he questions aloud whether man should be saved - and Cleveland answers that he should be. In this moment, Cleveland expresses a desire to live - to be healed, and to rebuild the trust to reattach himself with society.

The "someone with no secrets" is Mr. Bubchik, the man who is unaware that his wife reveals his secrets. He represents the undeniable reality of Cleveland's weakness, his shortcomings, and his mortality. This candidness promotes a sense of honesty and comfort, a willingness to accept oneself despite one?s flaws. Mr. Bubchik represents that which Cleveland has no choice but to accept. And he provides Cleveland the opportunity to relieve himself of the guilt that has accompanied the burden of his secret. He cannot forgive himself for that over which he had no control - the inability to save his family ? unless he is able to openly share it with himself.

"The Guild? consists of seven women, a group formed to protect a common interest. The number seven is prominent in religion and mythology ? ?The Seven Divine Women? (in Khasi mythology), ?The Seven Sleeping Men? (in Christian mythology), ?The Seven Mothers? (in Hindu mythology), ?The Seven Virtues?, ?The Seven Sacraments?, and so forth. And a group of women is a representation of Cleveland's burgeoning sense of self worth - the empowerment of that which is generally perceived to be weak and undervalued (this is particularly true in many traditional Hispanic cultures which are known to be excessively misogynistic). The first scene of the movie (a clever foreshadowing) shows Cleveland trying to kill a "big, hairy" bug under the sink of a Hispanic family's apartment. In the background, we see the family's daughters brandishing makeshift weapons and squealing in fear of the bug. They make up five of the Guild's sisters. The others include Anna Ran, Vick's sister (who acts more as a mother to him at times), and Young-Soon, who makes an early reference to her sister who married a dentist, and who is invaluable in guiding Cleveland along his journey of self-awakening. The Guild assists Cleveland through their ?laying on of hands? in the climactic scene involving Story's healing and his own catharsis. The image illustrates Cleveland's need for emotional attachment (more typically associated with women and prohibited for men in Western culture) in order to connect with what he has repressed. Conversely, these women who provide emotional aid in this scene are armed and readily patrolling the pool's perimeter in the next. It?s a testament to the power of women to both heal and protect.

The group gathers together to ?bring strength to the moment? of Story?s (and Cleveland?s) healing and liberation. It is only then that he is able to reach catharsis. He reveals his tragedy to all aspects of himself, and releases the repressed pain and guilt that have kept him isolated in the Cove. It is at this moment that he is able to heal and embrace his hope and faith once again, leaving it safe and appropriate for the angelic Story to return to the Blue World on the wings of the Great Eatlon. Presumably, God?s angel has fulfilled her task to save a man ? indeed, all of mankind (she is the Madam Narf) - and returned to heaven.

Shyamalan has called this his most personal film - an especially significant statement, considering how personal all of his stories have been. In fact, he has referred to them as his ?children?. Criticism of ?The Village? stripped him of his credibility for his prior three great and well-received productions. So he cast himself as the writer whose inspiration by the Story helps him escape his doubt and heal his faith. Is ?The Lady in the Water?, then, the ?story? of his healing? Or is it the story that healed him? Or is it both?

This man is portrayed by many as an egomaniac. Yet he has done perhaps the most humble thing imaginable ? he?s created a story of amazing depth and value, but he has left it for the viewer to tie together. In this sense, he has created an incredible scenario in which the story is actually critical of the viewer. He writes stories that he would appreciate, and that a select group of the audience (however small) will appreciate. And he allows himself to be bashed for its simplicity and banality by those who can?t appreciate his effort, content that this inability is criticism enough of his critics. Think of this scenario in the context of this movie! It?s the most amazing thing I?ve ever seen in entertainment, and I only hope I?ve done it some justice. [/quote]
 freakin awesome review. you put my thoughts in detailed well written words.

i also felt the same way. i feel that people who have never been to "the cove", are the ones who will never understand/get how awesome this movie is.



 
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: dana on April 30, 2009, 09:52:28 AM
I found the maintenance man extremely attractive.
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: Namaste on May 01, 2009, 01:31:02 PM
I found the maintenance man extremely attractive.

Lmao...odd contrast to the magnificent analysis by enalpanosekans
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: dana on May 01, 2009, 06:56:21 PM
choice.  thinking about reflections.  read your comment about shoes the other night and got tickled.  somehow I think Story chose Cleveland, just as Cleveland chose Story. 
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: Namaste on May 02, 2009, 05:45:44 AM
shoes? whatd i say about shoes?
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: Mr_Glass.1 on June 23, 2009, 03:09:44 PM
All of Dana's posts are confusing.
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: Namaste on June 29, 2009, 04:16:00 PM
I'm pretty sure she has been banned.
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: Mr_Glass.1 on July 06, 2009, 03:29:10 PM
okay, because her posts were starting to get really annoying.
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: Namaste on July 08, 2009, 12:29:53 AM
trying to figure out her posts were like mentally lifting weights; it doesnt get any work done, but it's good exercise lol
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: Mr_Glass.1 on July 14, 2009, 12:21:28 PM
I wouldn't even really compare it to that.
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: mamasan on August 21, 2009, 12:41:37 PM
I found the maintenance man extremely attractive.

Lmao...odd contrast to the magnificent analysis by enalpanosekans


The analysis is, indeed, magnificent; but, hey, sometimes a girl's gotta say what a girl's gotta say.  ;)

(Btw, maintenance man = not extremely attractive IMHO. Methinks Dana needs to get out more.)
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: Decadent Sympozium on October 11, 2009, 07:01:02 PM
Quote
'i love M Night and have stuck by all his other films until i got the overall meaning and references throughout. Yet Lady is the one which i have never liked and simply dont understand.
i know this was a bedtime story for his kids or sumthin so he decided to make a film of it but is that all there is to it? is there a wider perspective and a point to it?
please help me out and convince me that this is as good as Shyamalan's others.'

This is a quote from IMDB. I wanted to give a short intro to the depth of Lady in the Water, so I also wrote a more general analyze of this movie. You might consider reading through, and sharing opinion on this one:

Quote
Nearly every scene, dialogue line, title, name, shape and act has it's purpose in this film. I'll try writing in short lines the general point of this movie, and if you'd like a more in-depth interpretation of movie's details, visit this link: http://www.mnightfans.com/forums/index.php?topic=669.0

[First of all, you probably liked the music inside this film. The main theme is more or less God's intervention through James Newton Howard's talent. The music was done with special care and, just like in Village, was designed to touch things inside us - beyond us. If you failed to be with the music, and watching this movie in cinema helped a lot, this is a troublesome obstacle, but I guess we will find a way around it.]

The intro was designed to propose and set the basics of complex plot so that all the important thoughts and ideas can be expressed during film without additional setbacks from storytelling the past, which is often an issue in movies because it requires additional unnecessary scenes with dialogues of no good motive to explain. Sometimes narrating intro is of questionable necessity (e.g. Push 2009), but in this case, it was. The intro was done in symbols because major element of importance in this movie, just as in any of his works since Shyamalan is a symbolist in range of Charles Baudelaire), are symbols and symbolism. The intro starts with 'once', like all classic tales do. Basically, he is telling us a tale that people talk to their children, he's showing what tale are we dealing here with, so that when he sets the tale into modern time, we are not lost, but are aware of what is going on, and then we can monitor and see what exactly is it all about.

Tale is the first and very important symbol/aspect in LitW. It is known that all tales, regardless of their presentation, contain messages, ethics, values, and general wisdom. If you realize that Shyamalan is telling you and presenting you something through a tale set in modern world, you can automatically conclude that he is pointing at something, that he has something to say and that what you see is not what you get. Not a single tale ever was designed to be just a story, all of them have a mass detail of messages to decipher, and offer you elderly wisdom - the one that men should take into consideration. The crucial line here also appears in the intro, when the narrator says 'but men does not listen very well'. This is one of the key problems since the beginning of humankind, problem that is analyzed even in work such as Bible, and most important issue in today's world as well. Men does not pay attention, men does not listen, and men does not care.

In terms of biology, life began in the sea. If we, just for a second, ignore the mystery and men's fascination with the sea, this fact points us to where it all started, but this symbol doesn't speak of location, it speaks of where to look - where to turn our heads to in order for us to 'see' the messages from nature so that we can realize that the progress of humankind, ironically, is decadent. This portion of movie pretty much deals with men's ignorance the way Baudelaire's poem Correspondences does (http://fleursdumal.org/poem/103). In terms of tale, naturally, the sirens (Narfs) are those who remained in the sea - those who are in correspondence with the nature, who did not alienate and do not bring their own destruction. To accept this further, we need to conclude that in this world, regardless of our orientation, there are two kind of forces - constructive (preferably good) and destructive (preferably evil). Just like in any tale and in all our lives, both forces appear as they are intertwined.

Second crucial key problem, and key line here, also in intro, is 'men's need to own everything'. Translated, he's talking about selfishness, about human greed. While studying human behavior, one can conclude all our motives come down to sensitivity of our selfishness, including love for someone. Since this is a topic we can discuss greatly, to make it relevant for the movie, what was said is enough. The point is, we alienated from nature because of one error we possess, selfishness, and this is what brings our doom. In plain common, we all understand what is going on in this world, wars aren't started for human rights but for personal interests, industries put product over human or animal life, deforestation is done to increase amount of profitable space, you will get killed in the streets for 5$, and so on...all in all, everything is ucked up, and it's all about
A) not caring/paying attention and
B) greed.
Another reason why these nature-close characters are exactly that is to show the difference between them and us - humans. They are ideal human, and we are, so to say, corrupted spawns, and you cannot relate and cannot be guided by a corrupted spawn, so what you really need is someone as pure as Narf to guide you, just like while working or studying, you need a small push from someone. If you have problem relating to something being a Narf, then think of Narf, symbolically, as being your conscious, rather than some creature from the sea.

Narf, nature or conscious, anyway you put it - the story further explains they are, nonetheless, trying to make contact with you, and, of course, there are obstacles between. Any aspect of this tale can be explained in more than one way but all of these share similarities, some central ideas. In analogy with conscious, it becomes obvious that Scrunt is the little evil seed, aspect known from Freud's psychology, but it can also be any occurrence that puts you to test or prevents you to realize (see the truth, so to say, e.g., this problem is philosophically studied in Plato's allegory of cave and light).

Most of this is contained inside the intro. That is why those first 2 minutes are very important - because they set the basic problem, and the rest of the movie explains it, debates it and solves it, with one goal - inspire and give hope.
-------------------------
To go through all of them would take way too much time, and it is much better if you can reach it on your own, once you established the basics, so, just like above, I'm skipping the wealth of details for common relevance.

Characters that appear in LitW share several similar points:
1. They are common people in common life with uncommon setting
2. They are all in the same place, their little corner, and stuck in life
3. They suffer because of their past or their present, and they have no motivation
4. ALL these people need HOPE. This is foremost important and another key spot.

This is how this works: Imagine someone who is most important to you has terminal illness. Eventually, you will reach a stage of thought where you might consider that there is nothing that can be done to prevent this from happening. This situation can be applied to any event in your life or social environment you live in. Most people today believe, among other, one important thing that is also relevant for this film: That today's world is going to hell and that there's nothing we can do about it. This is the MAIN issue Shyamalan is pointing at, and the main message is: it doesn't have to be that way. So, your special someone is dying, there's nothing we can do about it. One day, 'out of ~blue~', someone appears and offers you a method to save that special someone. Will you try believing it?

As a tale, it is a symbol, but it works the same way for all these men in LitW: This strange Story appears and does something to them. The rest who lives there notice something is going on, something 'out of this world', and it gives them a motive, it revives them, it makes them believe that there truly is a purpose and hope. Yes, perhaps Shyamalan could have made a load of tragic characters and put them into, for example, war setting, or simply a more serious setting than this one (like, for example, King did in Green Mile, story and another movie with content similar to LitW), but he didn't. He designed a very realistic and modern setting for his Unbreakable, so it's quite obvious he intentionally wanted to make us feel the inspiring fantasy in this broken world. After all, we all wish fantasy is real, we all have affinity for our imagination, and we all seek, in this our fantasy, a better world.

Notice that those who are most important bear heaviest cross or have worst obstacle. If you paid attention to it, you know that when being near Story, they feel warmth, or piercing, or peace. This 'peace' is the one we feel when things go well, when we do the right thing, when we feel pleased. It is the opposite of horrible feeling of angst (eng. anxiety, oppression), The symbol of 'peace/warmth/piercing' represents our purpose. All characters are equally relevant, as it appears during unfolding. Without one, nothing works and we are all connected in chains of reactions. This problem is widely analyzed, debated and philosophically studied in Chrono Cross. So, what does it mean? Shyamalan sends us three messages here:

1. Each and every one of us has a purpose.
2. We are all I, we are all equally relevant.
3. Any of us can make a difference, if only we knew where to start from.

Number 3 is very, very important. In basis, Lady in the Water goes from primary point that mankind, originally, is good, not evil, is giving, not selfish. Where's the symbolism?

Every one of us has a purpose (the reason why all characters play an unavoidable role), by knowing our place we can help the one among us (even some poor guy living in apartment room with his sister // in terms, we can see that we all have a role, but our roles are different) to make the difference (start listening, hearing, understanding, it is common sense, it is our conscious) and start making this world a better place (by writing a book which will influence men with other roles, and start a chain of reactions (e.g. from history, Karl Marx, although it's on the negative side)) but it needs a push, a motive and inspiration (Story), and thus the laws of nature (Tartut/rics, Narf, Scrunt, Eagle respectively), or karma if you will, will eventually give 'the chosen one' (classic, but very much real) a chance to begin with. In short, Shyamalan says :'Yes, it could be you!'

In LitW, the Narf finally made a successful contact, but then this contact must be protected, both-wise, so this becomes the primary goal in the last part of the movie. This creature that brought salvation to mankind must be saved, and all of them will do their best to follow the rules of the unknown world in order to keep their own world existent and with purpose because now finally they all have the supernatural among them to give them purpose (This problem of  'your place in this world' Shyamalan also discusses in Signs and in Unbreakable, it is clearly major trouble he copes with, very much like Stephan King always makes writers with lost inspiration for his main characters, like he said, it's the only thing he fears of, losing inspiration).

Now some of the catchy parts floating around...By putting himself into the role of the chosen one who will save the world, you can react to Shyamalan in four ways, and it depends on your personality and perception, really:
1) He just wanted to be the one in order to feel good. It's his movie, so back off. Tarantino does the same.
2) He thinks he's all super-cool director so he's pumping his ego by making films about himself.
3) He clearly wanted to show that anyone can be that by directly putting himself into work. (In some way, this is a type of responsibility for the actions you do)
4) He knew people will respond to this with mixed reactions, he did it on purpose.

About 4). This actually may not be a bad clue. Apart from himself, he also put a film critic into the movie and made fun of them, he also predicted how acclaimed critic will respond to this movie, and he probably intentionally didn't want to change it. Finally, he killed the critic, and it could be a very funny way of telling them his opinion. The critic responded to this with 'his attempt to board himself from the fact he made a bad movie' but, from what I can tell, it's hard to believe Shyamalan can't tell a difference, and can predict bad reviews - but can't change the movie to make it 'less bad'. Not convincing. Some may hate this thought, but Shyamalan is a bit witty, actually.

Since we're at it, there's also an interesting detail you might consider paying attention to:
Apart from Sixth Sense, which is a money-maker film, Unbreakable, Signs, Village and Lady in the Water are SF philosophical art movies where Shyamalan is offering hope and purpose, love, faith, generally movies that have happy endings, that are positive in their nature. In all these movies - Shyamalan appears himself.  After Lady in the Water, which is a climax of his thoughts and a movie where humankind IS SAVED, Shyamalan made a dark, depressing The Happening where he condemned mankind to destruction, and he doesn't appear in the movie. Also, note that in Lady in the Water, the nature is good-willing and a friend of mankind, while in Happening, the nature hates mankind, and is portrayed by demented Mrs. Jones in the second part of movie. You might consider this.

Thank you for reading and I hope you have seconds thoughts about Lady in the Water.
Title: Re: The Meaning
Post by: Mr_Glass.1 on January 08, 2010, 04:39:44 PM
Wow, okay, so I finally read this, and all I can say is that there is a lot packed into this, and it will take a couple days to digest.