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Lady in the Water

Entry updated 30 January 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (2006). Warner Bros. Pictures in association with Legendary Pictures presents a Blinding Edge Pictures Production. Written and directed by M Night Shyamalan. Cast includes Bob Balaban, Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Freddy Rodriguez and Jeffrey Wright. 100 minutes. Colour.

The manager of an apartment complex is encumbered with a nymphlike being from a water Dimension, who is pursued by monstrous assassins and must be returned to her own world through an elaborate collective ritual.

After delivering four hits in a row for Disney, Shyamalan fell out with the studio over this bizarre folie de grandeur derived from a bedtime story to his daughters, and intended as a family fairytale in the mould of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), which it essentially replays with an adult cast. Warners were pleased to land Shyamalan on the rebound, but delight turned to dismay and the relationship did not survive the film's disastrous box-office performance. Giamatti is excellent and the ensemble setting attractively realized, but the plot is built on the most egregious of Shyamalan's trumped-up mythologies, an arbitrary and incoherent farrago of ad-hoc roles, rules, and actantial functions which challenges the audience's capacity to believe or care, with its incongruously childish nomenclature of narfs and scrunts (preposterously claimed to exist in Chinese). Shyamalan's reputation was permanently damaged by the debacle, though the film's sheer strangeness and entanglement in its director's longstanding obsessions is difficult to regard entirely unsympathetically. Its uncomfortable making is chronicled by Michael Bamberger in The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M Night Shyamalan Staked his Career on a Fairytale (2006). [NL]


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