Monday, October 23, 2006

Lady in the Water

I finally bought the soundtrack, and as I lay in bed last night listening to it, I tried to figure out why I am obsessed with Shyamalan's movies despite their significant artistic flaws. I think the answer is that each of Shyamalan's movies can be boiled down to very basic human questions. For instance, Signs asks, "Why do we suffer?" The Village asks if we can escape evil, and Lady in the Water asks if what we do is significant. The movies do not promise to definitively answer any of these questions, but they do explore possible solutions. Also, they operate out of a transcendant worldview--there is a meaning outside of ourselves, a coherent universe. In other words, the films give us a voice and offer us hope.

Shyamalan's talent is in bringing his films to an emotional climax. Despite the awkardness he sometimes achieves in dialogue, setting, characters, and plot, he manages to bring these elements flawlessly together at certain points in the movie to ask the crucial question. You don't realize that there are words to the question until you think about the movie later. This is why Lady in the Water moves me so deeply. Yes, it is a hodgepodge of Eastern mythologies and pacifism and trite sayings, but there is a particular scene in which one character says, "But the rules have to work!" Shyamalan has set the confused, frightening little world of the apartment complex against the larger, yet fuzzier world of creatures and prophecies. This is such a human conflict. "What are the rules?" we ask, in desperation--because if there are no rules, or the rules do not work, then the universe is a cruel and random trick.

I think that Shyamalan is a useful reminder, to Christians especially, that art (or more broadly, beauty and aesthetics) cannot be interpreted solely with the mind. The heart and the emotions must be deeply involved or we will be desensitized to many of the implications of the questions we are asking. I think it would be easy for a Christian to criticize Lady in the Water for its structural incoherence, and fail to grasp the overall point of the movie, which is conveyed through aesthetic (wordless, sensual) means.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Forest

Two people have commented on "the forest" from my last entry. I'm intrigued that nobody's mentioned the cottage or the castle. It makes me wonder--

What does the forest mean to you?

To me, it simply means the questions I've been too afraid to ask. Is God good? Does He love me? For years, I was afraid to ask those questions because I was afraid that the answer would be no. The deeply terrifying possibilities in those questions taught me to make choices and build walls and fortify myself against disappointment in a way that literally cut me off from life. I was trapped--so afraid of the answers that I did not ask the questions.

Obviously I would not be writing this entry if there had not come a point (this past summer, in fact) when God helped me to see my absurd position. Interestingly, He didn't give me any answers--He just gave me a choice: take a step in some direction (in my case, ask the questions) or remain riveted in fear.

So that is my forest. What's yours?