Tuesday, April 25, 2017

3+1 Short Paragraphs: Split

2016, M Night Shyamalan (Unbreakable) -- download

If you know me, you could understand why I did a little happy dance on the sofa at the end of this movie. I am so glad I wasn't spoiled, as it was not a traditional Shyamalan twist ending but a nice movie footnote. Not necessary, but nice. The (Shyamalan)man is doing his best to divulge himself of his one-note reputation for movies with surprise endings, after interest in the idea waned. His last two, including this one, are not about that, but I am glad he is not entirely dispensing with his style, which I completely love. We are still pretending that The Last Airbender didn't happen. And I always forget that After Earth was his. So, last four?

Also, this movie definitely had a look about it; I applaud him on using Michael Gioulakis, cinematographer for It Follows. For a movie that takes place mostly in a basement, it just looked good. It had a  wonderful use of the textures, and composition, and the set dressing was impeccable. I always say to film fan friends that I like the classic cinematic ways that Shyamalan choses to shoot a scene, something that harkens back to older days of massive screens where a shot filled every corner. There is one particular shot that brought a smile to my face, a simple one, just of panning from the psychiatrist's book filled room, back to her PC into which an email has just flowed.

Split is about a man with many personalities who kidnaps a trio of girls. He has a nefarious plan for them. Of course he does. In a completely compelling juggling of different roles, James McAvoy switches from one personality to the other as the girls do their best to escape from their captor. All the while one of the personalities is emailing their psychiatrist, needing to confess to the evil being committed and the agenda ahead of them. Patricia & Dennis, as a pair of colluding personalities, have a plan to draw out The Beast, a final personality, a final transformation of both mind and body. And that is what the movie is about, about whether perception is truly reality. If these two truly, utterly believe that their ritual (requiring the young ladies) can transform them into The Beast, then so it shall be.

There is also an underlying plot about victimhood, what makes a victim and what victims do for self-empowerment. One of the kidnapped, play by the again lovely Anna Taylor-Joy, does not join the others in their desires to violently react to their captor. She seems almost... passive. But in flashbacks and intelligent reactions, we see the two have a connection, a shared history of abuse that alters the power dynamic between the two. Its a wonderful little interplay that bookends the violence of the movie.

P.S. Look closely at the movie poster, if you want a hint as to what the footnote is at the end of the movie.