This is the question that the most attentive eyes of Cinema are asking to themselves at the latest years. I had the opportunity of asking to Shyamalan, when I lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his city. But I thought it wasn't quite convenient, as, at that occasion, I almost stepped on him on a parking lot. And, well, he would probably have no disposition for discussing his productions with the woman who was looking at him with a disapproval glance.
I explain: on that same week, I went to the movies for the last M. Night's release, The Happening (USA/2008). It seemed that nothing else was happening than the end of Shyamalan's good times. It was a long and unmerciful session of a nonsense production with tedious plot and really weak dialogues, no backgrounds, no story, nothing... The title was the only appropriate thing to me, based on the movie fiasco.
However, Shyamalan had his good times. He was the hero of the contemporary suspense, with a nice formula which combined fantastic and mysterious, using also quite well movements and camera angles. He was a master on creating enigmatic characters, coexisting at well-designed and unpredictable plots. So, what happened to him?
Unpredictable, by the way, is a proper word for this director's cinema, whether for his best movies or for his worst movies, as it was also predicted that Shyamalan's cinema would be ravishing after The Sixth Sense (USA/1999). But it was a mistaken prediction. He had more mistakes than success -- and he was considered as "The New Hitchcock" by specialized critics.
I confess that there was a huge expectation put at M. Night shoulders, because of the initial success of his career. He was clearly overestimated -- and critics and public became highly disappointed.
Em 2000, he released Unbreakable (USA), a movie whose main theme is the supernatural, just like the subsequents Signs (USA/2002), The Village (USA/2004), Lady in the Water (USA/2006) and then, The Happening.
His main characteristic is using supernatural as a kind of metaphor to speak about the relationship of mankind with faith, nature, love, and so on... All of his movies concern about these themes, and that's how they dialogue with the audience. It's a Cinema written between the lines - reflection; criticism. However, many people can't see all these stuff and focus on the entertainment of extraterrestrial stories, zombies, ghosts and scary creatures.
After The Sixth Sense, in my opinion, Shyamalan only got extra points with The Village, an excelent plot that leaves the audience paying attention to each detail from the beggining to the end. It's a provoking movie, with a clear critic concerning about moralism, discussing also the culture of fear. It's an interesting plot with a well-talented cast and a spectacular photography by Roger Deakins.
Despite sequential failures, and an almost unanimous thought, I don't think Shyamalan is a one-movie director. For me, he's a two-movie director.
His last production as a director is The Last Airbender (2010, USA), which will be continued with a 2012 release. And his newest task as a producer is the suspense movie Devil (USA/2010), directed by John Erick Dowdle.
I expect so much more from M. Night. Nevertheless, I still admire him. Maybe he's one of those sleepy geniuses. I still hope this period of regular movies is just a Shyamalan's phases, a guy who has been receiving non-satisfying titles as "a big Cinema fake".
This Indian director was raised at Philadelphia suburbs, the place where he still lives at and that is also scenery of the major part of his movies, which indicates the high esteem by Shyamalan for the city.
The Sixth Sense