Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Below the Surface

I've been listening again to the soundtrack to "Lady in the Water," possibly my favorite of all of M. Night Shyamalan's movies. I know, it was pretty universally panned as being terrible. But why should I care? I loved it and that's all that matters. I love it because it's simple. I love it because it's beautiful and tender. I love it because I can see and feel the heart and soul that M. Night put into making it. I love it because it's fanciful and whimsical. I love it because it's a creative way of doing a modern-day, allegorical fairytale. I love it because it's honest.

My working theory is that the people that hated it, do so because they don't know how to enjoy something with childlike love anymore. Or that they are far too "cool" to suspend disbelief for just a moment. And the rest, well, they were just upset that M. Night took out some personal aggression on the in-movie film critic. Yes, I can see that there was definitely some pent up frustration there. But I can understand why. As a writer, albeit an unprofessional one, I can fully understand that feeling of frustration when someone doesn't "get" your work. When they just don't see a point to it and don't really care to try to find one.

I see M. Night's point in "Lady in the Water." I suppose it boils down to purpose -- the purpose that each person has on this earth . . . that they sometimes don't know what it is, how to live it out, or if they even have one to begin with. We all need to feel as though our lives mean something -- that we were put here for a reason, whether it be to do something great, or something quite small, but still just as important. Purpose is what drives us, makes us feel hopeful. And it is what gives us comfort that despite all of the hard-knocks and despite all of our mistakes, that maybe, just maybe, we will somehow create something good out of all the bad.

Each of the characters had a vital role in the story. Some even had titles, such as The Healer of The Protector. But each one, no matter how small a part, was necessary to the events that transpired. I have to admit, Paul Giamatti's character was my favorite. But that's partly because I adore him; he is one of three of my favorite actors, the other two being Johnny Depp and Gary Oldman. One of these days I'm going to have to expand that list to four favorites, and create a nice, comfy spot for Sir Ian McKellan.

Paul Giamtti is wonderful in this movie. He is kind, quiet, lovely, and broken. He is the sort of man who you may not know has seen real tragedy . . . you may think that he is just a loner, someone that has little to say and is mediocre to the core. We've all seen people like that, or that we at least THINK are like that. There is not much memorable about them. Cleveland Heep is like that . . . easily dismissed. It makes me wonder just how many people I have dismissed in my life, or how many people have dismissed me. Probably far too many on both accounts.

Cleveland wasn't always this way. He used to have a family, a job as a doctor, and a regular home, instead of the small grotto-type house sitting next to the aparment complex pool. He used to be engaged in the world and alive. But tragedy has a blunt way of taking away your oxygen -- cocooning you from connections.  Cleveland's family was murdered by someone that broke into their home.  He was a doctor and could not save his own family.  Can you imagine how much guilt you would have for that?  Your profession is saving people's lives, and the only ones you couldn't save were the ones whom you loved the most. 

Cleveland had retreated from the world after that, creating a lonely existence in which no one knew his real story, until Story, the water Narf, from the Blue World, who has been sent to "awaken" someone meant to greatly affect the future of humanity.  Story was the first one who learned of Cleveland's past and true nature, by reading his tucked-away journal that recounted all of his dark and long-held secrets.  When Cleveland finds Story reading his journal he takes it from her and, bent over, cradles the journal against his chest, asking her to please never speak of this again.  

That part gets to me every time.  The way he holds it so tightly to his chest as if by her reading the journal she has somehow cut him open and he is now trying to hold all of his organs inside of him again.  There is almost a fetal-like quality to it -- a certain security from holding the body close to itself.  There have been glimpses before about who Cleveland is, but not until then do we discover what immense pain he has been holding deep inside him.  

That pain comes out beautifully near the end of the movie when Story has been fatally wounded by the Scrunt.  The woman who was believed to be the healer held Story's limp body but failed to reverse the effects of her injury.  Finally it is realized that the true healer all along was Cleveland, whom was originally believed to be the Protector.  Cleveland cradles Story's body in his arms, much like he did with his journal, and begins to talk to her, telling her how much she means to him.  Suddenly, without saying it, he begins talking to his family that he lost, telling them how sorry he is that he couldn't save them.  

He sobs, releasing years of pain.  I absolutely lose it in this part of the movie.  I have never seen a more genuine and beautifully gut-wrenching cry in any other movies or shows.  Paul Giamatti is amazingly honest and vulnerable.  In this movie, he is just about the most endearing character I have ever experienced.  

This is Kevin's favorite M. Night movie as well.  After it was over, I remember we were both emotional, drained, uplifted, and did not say anything for a few solid minutes.  We were so overwhelmed with . . . oh, I don't even know what exactly.  It stirs a lot of different emotions in us.  But the one that I can pinpoint is hope.  And this the music also beautifully exemplifies.  There is something so hopeful about this movie that I can barely describe.  I get swept away in it, wishing that I could live in this world.  There is hope in this world.  Hope that all things can be made right . . . that people can be selfless enough to follow a crazy whim and try to help someone else . . . that there is some kind of magic in the world . . . that even the seemingly most insignificant people can do something great . . . that each person is more than they know.  Afterall, isn't that what all fairytales come down to in the end . . . realizing that you are much more than what you always thought?  Perhaps there is a little of the Blue World in us all . . .

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