Still playing with demons
Director M Night Shyamalan talks about the conception of characters and facts behind dissociative personality disorder
M Night Shyamalan has several feathers in his cap — he is a director, screenwriter, author, producer and actor known for making movies with contemporary supernatural plots and surprise endings. Renowned for films like The Sixth Sense (1999), a supernatural horror thriller; Unbreakable (2000), a superhero thriller; Signs (2002), a science fiction horror and The Village (2004), a historical drama-horror, he’s regained his sense of primacy in the suspense genre with a trilogy that began with Unbreakable, the latest James McAvoy starrer Split and the last Glass.
In a world of superhero Marvel villains, here comes a guy who has 23 demons living in him as different personalities. Eventually, these girls realise that there are several different personalities living within him and they try to find a way to escape using one of them. The movie will be screened on Sony Pix on April 5.
Do you feel that Split represents some kind of evolution in your filmography? In a way, do you feel it’s more realistic?
I would say that creating weird, grounded things is what excites me. My philosophy is to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I want it to be a real conversation with regard to what we are capable of and the hidden potential of our minds. When you see individuals walking on fire, how do they do it? You know, there was one guy who burnt his feet because he took a selfie while he was walking on hot charcoals. His mind was not concentrating anymore and that is the reason he burnt his feet.
Split identity is a serious matter. How much of the movie is based on facts about dissociative personality disorder?
It’s completely factual, except that I am postulating one question. Our minds and our bodies are 100 per cent connected. We all know that when we are stressed out, our blood pressure goes up. We believe that connection. The placebo effect is where people start to wonder. Though, it is a scientific fact, yet no one can explain it. It’s just that a certain percentage of us can cure ourselves because we think that we have been given the medicine. The dissociative patients have this disorder, which is generated by a specific trauma that has occured in their life and now their brain can have different consciousness simultaneously. They have different existences at the same time and their body becomes what they believe in. If they believe that they can lift 250 pounds, they can lift 250 pounds. Their belief is everything as their minds are constantly working.
You deliberately played against clichés. Like you said, the blonde woman is not the first one to die. It’s subtle sometimes but there’s all these clichés in cinema.
It’s very subtle like you said, but the reason that these girls get killed is the opposite of what happens in a horror movie. In a horror movie, the sexed-up girl gets killed and the ones having sex or doing taboo things also get killed. In this film, it was the reverse. They were abducted precisely because they are good and balanced. A person with some serious issues picks them because he feels that they are good kids with a good life and nothing has happened to them. He said that they have been asleep until then. It’s like the reverse and then they find out that the girl who has had such darkness in her life is actually connected to the abductor in a way.
Abduction must be a fear for the father of girls.
When you are writing, you are writing your fears. Once you play out your fears, it almost gives you the strength to handle things in life because you are not obsessed by them.
How did you conceive the idea of the broken ones being the pure ones?
It basically reveals what is running in my mind. If you watch any of my movies, you can see what was going on, in my mind at that particular time. The Sixth Sense is about work versus family. Unbreakable is about the burden of being something for other people. The Visit is about forgiveness. This film, for me, is about the bad things that has happened to us. Did they hurt us or did they make us special? Was it bad that you broke your legs in a car accident? Does George Lucas become George Lucas without the car accident in his youth? All kinds of questions about it.
So, thinking of Casey, her whole life she’s been so different and thought that it was defining her life in a bad way. Then someone, tells her that, yes, what happened to her defines her life, but in an amazing way. There’s a reason why you are so amazing and stop thinking about how you are different because maybe it’s a good thing.
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