The Lady in the Water

Mystery Thriller. A pool man at an apartment complex discovers at nymph-like woman in his water, who is a mysterious figure of change in people’s lives. In fact, she is to mystically influence a man who will write an important book that will change the country in its effect on a future leader. But there’s one problem, there is a beast that wants to kill her before she can find her freedom. The movie starts with Neanderthal cave-like drawing animations of a New Age myth of how “land people” lost their way into wars and evil by losing their touch with the “water people.” So if we can only connect with the water people, we will find redemption and cure the evil in the world. Being a Shyamalan film, this is unapologetically mythical. So fans of realism will react with dread as obvious connections are made of the various allies that are predestined to help the nymph achieve her freedom. The Guardian, the Healer, the Circle of Sisters, the Interpreter, etc. I actually liked that about it.

It was also quite self-aware. A writer character in the story helps Paul Giamatti discover who should fulfill each of the roles from the characters at the apartment complex. And as he explains, it is an obvious explanation of the literary genre of myth for the viewer. It was a great character because, as a movie critic, he was a cynical know it all, who could not appreciate any movie cause it was all the same and there is nothing new. He just could not appreciate the power of genre. No doubt, a jab at the film critics who don’t like Shyamalan’s movies. A particularly funny moment is when the writer, who is a jerk, is caught in the hallway with the monster and he talks to himself about how this is just like a horror movie, where the jerk gets cornered, but gets away just in time, etc. etc. But of course, he doesn’t. He gets chomped by the monster. A very clever postmodern “Scream-like” play on stories about stories.

Being mythic, this tale has many references to “predestined purpose,” “finding your prupose is a profound thing, but its something that’s not what it seems,” and “man thinks he’s alone, but it’s not true. We’re all connected.” Also, “The universe will give us signs to reveal we’re on the right path.” I really liked how it stresses the quirky uniqueness of each person, with each of their faults, but they turn out to each have unique purpose in working together. The crazy Korean woman who knows the myth that this story embodies and helps Giamatti figure it out; the crossword puzzle guy whose sensitive son turns out to be the code breaker interpreter, the bizarre guy who is building the muscles on only one side of his body becomes the Guardian. And Giamatti, the broken man (from his family’s murder) is the healer in his brokenness. The scene where Paul is supposed to help heal the Nymph, he is supposed to do some kind of incantation, and he doesn’t have any idea what that is, so he just confesses his feelings of failing to his family. This purging of the soul becomes the source of healing. Nice touch. There are these tree monkeys that are the guardians of the laws of the world, who bring retribution on those who do not follow the “rules.” A nice symbolic reference to the lawlike nature of the universe in relation to good and evil.

All this mythic storytelling is really more of the Hindu pantheistic elevation of an impersonal fate-oriented universe invested with magical fortune that Shyamalan was raised to believe than it is a symbolic reference to the living God. New Age gobbledygook. Although, I reckon in true relativistic pantheistic nature, Shyamalan would say that it could be a symbolic reference to God if you like, I don’t think it rings with that kind of connection. At least not to me. This is more of a pantheistic play of magical characters in an impersonal universe that is harmonized in a “mother earth” type of harmony (land and water united) than it could be a reflection of a loving personal Creator who is in control of all things and cares for us—Which is more like his previous movie, Signs. But this only makes my point that Shyamalan’s worldview believes all religions reflect the same ultimate truth, so that is why he can make a “Christian worldview” in one movie, and a pantheistic worldview in another. I really do appreciate though his sense of they mystery of life and indeed, the magic of it all. It’s just a different kind of magic than I believe in. I believe in the Deep Magic of Aslan.