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Friday, January 18, 2013

The Mythic Core

I have to admit, I like M. Night Shyamalan's body of work.  This writer, producer, and director has brought many popular films and some  viewed as less than popular:  The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006), The Happening (2008) and The Last Airbender (2010).  This summer, After Earth, is set to appear (2013).

He is often misunderstood by a culture seeking the gross-out, the obscene, and the heavy-handed in their suspense and horror-thrillers.  These are the cinematic and story versions of a stomp dance.  Shyamalan's works, by comparison, have the grace, mythic bones, and naunced touch a classic ballet.

What drew me into Unbreakable and the Lady in the Water were the underlying mythic structures.  He tapped into archetypes, legends, and the hero's journey to craft those movies.  Instead of lowering his vision to the common - the bloody, visceral, crude and heavy-handed approach to thrilling tales - he tapped into the river running through human experience.  The problem is that society has been fed the inferior so long it cannot appreciate the fresh air and multi-layered complexity of Shyamalan's work.  Shyamalan's work is the higher education course in a high school drop-out world.   His work is not without shortcomings, but his works have developed and evolved, and hopefully will continue to do so without caving into the commerical forces that would kill that vital difference in the name of boxoffice success.

Great art is seldom fiscally successful - at first.  It takes an audience understanding of the complexities, nuances, and deeper elements to finally and fully appreciate their importance.  Hopefully, we are on our way to that place where we can not only recognize the vital mythic core in his films but come to appreciate them.  

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