Shyamalan’s “signals” were never about aliens

    If religion is people’s opium, then M. Night Shyamalan has decided he wants to be the drug dealer who distributes it around the world. The price of the dose will be the price of the cinema ticket. The movie “Signs,” an intimate apocalypse that mixed an alien story with a treatise on faith. As if a Christian TV network had merged with Sci-Fi.summarized by critic Peter Rayner in New York Magazine.

    Now that he’s twenty, we can say “Signals” is one of the peaks of Shyamalan’s zigzag career. The director, still young at the time,’s ability to play with tension, blend tones, control emotions, and conserve narrative resources makes his fifth feature film a rare gem of science fiction and sentimental family drama.. The performance of the cast, made up of Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Sherry Jones, young Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin, is absolutely perfect. James Newton Howard’s beautiful and epic music, with atmospheric violins as protagonists, is among his best (and could be among the best soundtracks in history). It contains so many unforgettable scenes that it is difficult to choose just one: the family together in the car listening to aliens through the screen, watching Christmas, the last supper, the final showdown …


    An inspiring and optimistic film after 9/11

    However, it also marked the beginning of the poet’s end for the common people with Shyamalan. After the commercial bombshell that was “The Sixth Sense” and the misunderstanding of “The Protected” that could take years to find her recognition, “Signs” ended up positioning the Philadelphia director as “the weighty of the final plot twists of surprise”, and also as an author whose films elicited dissenting opinions. . But above all, he is a storyteller at a time few of us want to tell (something he would have made clear himself in the preface to his ‘The Girl from the Water’, his most battered, rejected, and undervalued movie, but we’ll talk about that in another moment) .

    “Signs” arose from Shyamalan’s intention to make a delightful and inspiring film. The director emerged from a time of anxiety and darkness, feelings that first impressed him with “Protected” and then multiplied when he saw the lukewarm reception he received. Then one day he was in a restaurant and looked around. I saw a family eating in silence. I saw a couple eating in silenceHe said in an interview with The Ringer in 2020. “I was thinking I could make sad movies and I’ll be honest. But I looked at these people, and I knew they were going to come see my movies, and I wanted to make them feel better. So I called Disney and said, ‘I want to make a happy movie, not look sad. There is a lot of conflict, but the sound and the point of view, I wanted it to be inspiring and even childish. And that’s how Senalis was born”.

    Although it might sound to the contrary, the need to make a hopeful movie originally had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It was released about a year later, and TV shows for the “Signals” invasion were taken as a metaphor. One of those iconic images of the fall of the Twin Towers. But in fact, filming began just two days after 9/11, and the script, written years earlier, was almost respectable during production.. His depiction of yet a tragic event of such historical significance was nothing more than a coincidence (although, as the film itself asks, are there coincidences?).


    What affected her was a certain spirit of fragility and partnership that permeated American society in the months after the attacks. The first thing filmed was a flashback in which Graham arrived at the scene and said goodbye to his wife before he died. The crew snapped a photo before the first shot of them holding candles. “It was a very exciting moment for everyone”Shyamalan admitted. “I think part of the movie’s spirituality came from the times we were living in at the time. We all felt so vulnerable and grateful to be together, that our loved ones were doing well, we felt lucky on so many levels, so randomly lucky.”.

    Coincidentally or not, Signals tells the story of the transformation of the world, a violent and tragic event that changes society as happened on 9/11. The film begins and ends with the same image of Graham’s backyard, which Shyamalan described as a postcard from Norman Rockwell, the artist known for his country landscapes: “It’s a backyard with a hammock, with wheat, and all is well, the perfect American model. By the end of the movie, the American model has changed a bit because the glass is broken, but it’s still beautiful.”.

    The story of a man who regained faith

    Although many remember it as a space movie, What really matters is the crisis of faith of the priest who, after the untimely death of his wife in a traffic accident, decides to turn his dress on.. This is not a subtext, but rather a text. Graham’s past (“Caroline, stop calling me “dad”), is referenced throughout the footage, the man who forbids his family from praying. One of the best scenes, Graham and Meryl’s late-night conversation on the sofa, has a monologue summarizing the theme the film:

    “In the world there are two kinds of people, and when something lucky happens, those in the first group consider it more than luck, more than coincidence, they consider it a sign. Proof that there is someone out there who takes care of the human being. Others consider it just luck, a happy opportunity. Surely That people in the second group view those fourteen lights with suspicion. For them, the situation is half and half: it can go wrong or right. But deep down they feel that no matter what happens, they are alone. And this fills them with fear. Yes, that’s what they think. But then there are a lot of people in the first group who when they look into those lights they see a miracle. And they feel deep down that no matter what happens, someone will be there to help them. And that fills them with hope. What you should ask yourself is in which group are you in : Are you one of those who see signs, or one of those who see miracles, or do you think people’s luck is random?Or think of it this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?


    The tags in the title seem to refer to the tags aliens leave in fields around the world, but it’s actually those seeming coincidences that the movie is full of, that end up together in a supposed master plan to save the family from Graham. Morgan’s asthma blocking his lungs so he can’t breathe alien poison gas, Merrill’s past as an exceptional baseball player, Poe’s mindless madness for leaving full glasses of water all over the house, and even the death of his mother, who was arbitrarily walking at the exact time and place that neighbor went To sleep at the wheel. Graham listens to those seemingly disconnected last words from his wife (“Tell Graham to watch. Tell Meryl to hit hard”) and thinks they are the result of a clouding of his mind, but he will end up understanding them at the right moment, when Meryl confronts the alien with his bat and the water in Cups is the key to defeat it.

    Although Señales’ movie has a great deal of Christian symbolism (and that’s the protagonist’s religion, after all), it’s not a movie about God, but rather about faith. “I’m not religious at all”Shyamalan explained. The goal was not to support or promote a particular religion. The point of that scene is on the sofa.”. If the “signs” have a theological premise, they do not dictate what we should believe, but rather encourage us to believe in something. If we did, says the director, we would believe in the idea that we have more will than we think. In his words: “Would you see the glasses of water around you to save you at the exact moment if you weren’t open to seeing the glasses of water around you?”. For him, faith is nothing more than a way to give meaning and significance to our lives.

    Spirituality vs. Logic (and a Critic’s Plot Evolution)


    Shyamalan cinema in the 2000s was full of spirituality, optimism, and emotion, with perhaps the main culprit being that the audience ended up turning their back on him. The evidence for this is that the films of his current phase, characterized by reconciliation with the audience, which began with “The Visit”, are more crude, more nihilistic, and less emotionally charged. The films “Signs”, “The Forest” and “The Girl in the Water” are so romantic, touching, sensitive (for many, sentimental), something that even the studios that invested millions of dollars in those films didn’t like. (And for this reason, they designed ad campaigns for them that were completely unrepresentative of what they really counted) Not much of the audience (Who often felt cheated by those particular campaigns.)

    The development of the famous script of “Signals” is one of the clearest examples of this separation between Shyamalan and many viewers. Unless the director was more than a symbol of a theoretical and emotional framework, it became for the most intelligent audience an ironic contradiction and scandal that threw the entire film to the ground. They saw it as a text hole: How would a species so fatally vulnerable to it attempt to conquer a planet full of water? One can try to defend it in different ways, because we know almost nothing about the aliens, their intentions or their circumstances: they may have arrived on Earth desperate and with depleted resources and had no other options, or maybe they weren’t even aware of it. That fact, a weakness because they may not have encountered this element before, which does not seem to have a significant presence outside our planet. But in the end we’ll approach the film with a preoccupation with something Shyamalan doesn’t care much about: logic, which many audiences seem to be obsessed with.

    Pandemic obsession

    The “signals” would be highly insightful to something that happened nearly two decades later. When the coronavirus pandemic forced us to confine ourselves and fill our televisions with images we had never seen before, some films from the past came back with renewed vigor, like Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion”, Nacho Vigalondo’s “Outland” or “The Virus”, the movie he made on the virus. corona. Señales’ movie not only depicted the experience of living through a harrowing event in intimacy with the family home, but also Beware what happens when society encounters an inexplicable event: an explosion of conspiracy thinking.


    Throughout the film, various alien theories are presented, each one more delusional, to the point that Merrill and the kids end up with aluminum foil hoods over their heads to prevent the invaders from reading their brains. The comical image has spread again in recent years as a representation of the mass hysteria that has arisen out of the pandemic.

    The idea of ​​”signs” about faith and destiny may be oversimplified and naive, but it has, ironically, permeated much of society.: Many would like to see the signs of “master plans” where there will only be chance and misfortune, and all the logic that applies to Shyamalan texts goes out the window when we want to understand what is happening in the real world. You know, people need opium, and given the choice, I left M.’s ingenuity. Night Shyamalan.

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