Monday, July 31, 2006
Written by Hombre Divertido
Lady in the Water has tremendous depth.
So M. Night Shyamalan attends a MENSA meeting, where he requests their assistance in remaking the 1987 film Batteries Not Included. A brainstorming session ensues where members in attendance suggest that rather than small spaceships; they use The Little Mermaid. “Oh!” one member screams, “M (Because that is of course what they would call him) lets include peoples search for their purpose, because that book, The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, is so popular right now.” The result is Lady in the Water, a film so deep, that it requires multiple viewings.
According to reports, that is not the way this story came about, but one cannot help but feel that way, as they are trying to scramble to find paper and pen to take notes during this 110-minute cavalcade of twists and turns. Actually stemming from a bedtime story Shyamalan concocted for his daughters, Lady in the Water is a brilliant piece of storytelling by a master at his craft.
Shyamalan is smart enough to know that the story is secondary to the characters, and if he is able to get the audience to care about the characters, they will invest the brainpower to follow this labyrinth of a tale.
Care about the characters the audience does, as they are introduced to all the inhabitants of the apartment complex which is watched over by our hero; Caretaker Cleveland Heep played excellently by Paul Giamatti. It is Heep who first discovers the Lady in the Water, who goes by the name of Story and is played with subtle intensity by Bryce Dallas Howard, and interestingly enough lives beneath the apartment pool.
Story leaves the pool on a mission, and finds the assistance of not only Heep, but eventually the majority of the tenants of the apartment.
Shyamalan, not only pulls us in with the vivid characters, but with film work, angles, and lighting, that allows us to experience not only the life of Caretaker Heep, but what it’s like to live in this apartment complex as well.
Oh yes, on some levels, this story may just be too much of a good thing. There are creatures and characters in Story’s world whose motivation is difficult to follow. Some may feel a bit set up as we are introduced to the interesting characteristics of our tenants. Mr. Heep seems to posses amazing diving techniques as he investigates Story’s home beneath the pool. On many levels, some people may decide it is just too much to invest their time in. Most will want to see it again, so as to figure out what they missed.
One might wonder what the film might have been like had Shyamalan simplified the story and made it easier to follow. As George Costanza said in a classic episode of Seinfeld: “I’m not dumbing it down for any mass audience!”
Recommendation: It would be quite easy to drown in the complex story that is Lady in The Water. Make sure you don’t see the late show, so that you can sit through it a second time and take it all in. Then go purchase The Purpose-Driven Life.