Saturday, July 5, 2008
THE END IS NEAR! THE TREES ARE GOING TO GET US BECAUSE WE'RE DESTROYING THE PLANET! RIGHT?!
It amazes me that all anyone seems to get from The Happening is a Green Party agenda. Since when has M. Night Shyamalan ever made a political statement with one of his movies? Shyamalan is a philosopher, not a politician... people take things way too literally.
Would it not seem logical for someone to use something which people consider to be a threat in today's age as a "villain" for a movie (especially one that likes to use mysterious, surreal elements and symbolism like Shyamalan). Wouldn't, then, an "angry planet" be a good antagonist for a Global Warming obsessed culture? Makes sense to me, apparently not so much to other people who can't get past thinking in purely literal terms.
As I spoke about in my last blog about Shyamalan: the man has, in his own way, revived the fairy tale - he uses events and ideas which do not necessarily correspond to reality in a literal way to convey philosophical ideas. In Signs it was a sense of Providence, in The Village it was unconditional love, in Lady in the Water it was the unique purpose of every individual, even past man's understanding.
In The Happening, it is selflessness.
If you will note - the notable characters who died (not the unnamed masses which were sort of a surreal-ish element throughout) all did so when they put themselves before others. The two boys attempting to break into the house got shot because they did what they wanted, not what they were told and knew was safe. They wanted food (as had been seen earlier), and were using the girl as an excuse, and they died. The old recluse who lived alone died when she threw all hospitality out the window and stormed out into the garden. The little girl's father died when he abandoned his daughter to try to find his wife (an irresponsible action, as between the two the daughter is who needed protection more so than the wife - he ignored his duty as a parent to fulfill his desire to see his wife safe, as the film rather clearly portrayed his action, especially in emphasizing the emotional need of the daughter for one of her parents and her reaction to his leaving). The only characters who didn't die when the toxin was clearly present were Wahlberg's character and his wife, who faced the toxin after reconciling their differences and seeking each other out of love, and still not abandoning their responsibility to the child. Each wanted to see the other, and each decided to "sacrifice" themself so that the other could have their wish... and even during this, they did not abandon their late friend's child... and thus they were spared.
The exactingly literal interpretations which paint up The Happening to merely be environmentalist propaganda, in light of an examination of the film based on typical Shyamalan standards, proves to be very narrow minded. The means of disaster chosen by Shyamalan seems to simply be one spurred by the constant, fearful chatter of Global Warming which permeates our society, and ultimately had nothing to do with the typical Shyamalan philosophical point made in the movie (unless the natural means of disaster represented the natural order of things: chaos is born when society turns entirely selfish... when we forget our duty to each other, we wind up essentially murdering ourselves; like ancient Rome, in which the selfish apathy of the people ultimately brought about the demise of one of history's greatest empires).
I continue to wait for the day that people within society will regain their imagination enough to understand that there's more to the world than what is tangible. When we again learn to use our minds to look past the thin surface of entertainment for the ideas contained within - beyond the simple, superficial points - we will finally be back on the road to becoming a truly intelligent and perceptive culture.