M. Night Shyamalan is part of a generation of filmmakers who participated in the renaissance of cinema. The year was 1999, and the still novice director presented himself to the world as a possible candidate for the new master of suspense with the film The Sixth Sense, which has a plot twist that is still remembered today.
Leaving audiences unable to breathe in theaters, just conducting the classic film would be enough for the Indian filmmaker to be seen as a kind of Alfred Hitchcock of that generation. But then the film reaches its final sequel and we discover that there was much more to it than we had initially imagined. At the same time, the clues were there all along. A misdirection worthy of great directors!
In The Sixth Sense, psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is shot in the opening minutes of the film. We then follow him trying to treat a boy (Haley Joel Osment) who claims to see and talk to the dead.
Throughout the film, Shyamalan leaves clues, but the truth is only revealed when the film ends. Crowe was dead and only the boy could see him. Heads exploded in movie theaters around the world!
And what has happened since then with Shyamalan’s plot twists?
In 2000’s Corpo Fechado, it seemed that he still had absolute control over the narrative and how to close any story with a golden key. The same can be said of Signs, although some critics have seen it as a more commercial film. But the problem — or perhaps the curse — for Shyamalan came in 2004 with The Village.
The film showed a small village isolated from the world and haunted by monstrous creatures. Vila had a marketing developed from the idea that the end of the film was shocking and should not be revealed. And with anticipation came Shyamalan’s first big fall. The film’s ending was quite anticlimactic, as it is revealed that, despite everything suggesting that the danger in such a village was real, there was nothing dangerous or mysterious — the opposite extreme to what the director did in The Sixth Sense.
This idea of wanting to surprise the public with plot twists was put aside by the director. Whether for the harsh criticism of The Village, or for being simply tired, Shyamalan was more discreet in his subsequent attempts, as in End Times, in which the ending is a mere punctuation, without bringing a major revelation to the film.
Fragmented also has an attempt at a turnaround, but this time without any direct connection with what the film itself had already presented, serving only to connect the story with Corpo Fechado, thus creating a universe of the director’s own.
Whether Shyamalan has decided to retire the style of storytelling that has consecrated him as one of the great representatives of his generation, or if he is trying to reinvent himself in some way, is still too early to say.
Tempo, his film that hit theaters in Brazil on July 29, may offer some clues as to which direction he intends to take. But regardless, it’s undeniable that his films are always interesting experiences, and that they only get better when he delivers the last piece of a good puzzle in the final sequences. Whoever managed to watch The Sixth Sense in the cinema, in 1999, say so!