Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Lady in the Water (2006)

Where Lagan stream sings lullaby
There blows a lily fair

The twilight gleam is in her eye

The night is on her hair

And like a love-sick lennan-shee

She has my heart in thrall

Nor life I owe nor liberty

For love is lord of all.
M. Night Shyamalan's film Lady in the Water (2006) received some pretty harsh reviews. I had decided not to see it, but my brother happened to have the DVD on hand; he prevailed upon me to watch it over the holidays. I was enchanted. It reminded me of the old Irish songs and fairy tales. Fairy-tales traditionally were not only for the entertainment of children but helped people of past times to confront their fears and face their realities. The Irish novel I am working on has led me to explore Celtic folklore; so many fairy-tales have a pattern similar to the story of Lady in the Water. A mortal man encounters an entity from the fairy realm, usually a bewitching maiden, falls in love with her, and his life is transformed forever. Instead of the characters being from an ancient Celtic clan, they are the motley denizens of a Philadelphia apartment house. Each person has a gift, even the faults and annoying habits can be turned to a useful purpose. There is the unkown hero of high destiny whom the fairy-maiden inspires by a single glance. One can apply many of the incidents to spiritual truths; each person has a purpose from God, and it is the mission of the angels to help and inspire. Evil lies in wait, however, but it can be overcome, like the beast in the film who stalks the fairy/narth. It recalls a passage from "The Sea-Maiden," in which a hero kills a terrible beast.

But here was rejoicing, that she should come home alive and whole, and this great captain with the beast's head full of blood in his hand. On the morrow they went away, and there was no question at all but that this hero would save the king's daughter.

It also reminded me of the song, "Castle of Dromore."

Bring no ill wind to hinder us, my helpless babe and me
Dread spirits all of black water, Clan Owen's wild banshee
And Holy Mary pitying us to Heaven for grace doth sue.

Usually the hero goes off with the fairy, as in the story "Connla and the fairy-maid."

When the maiden heard this, she answered and said "The ocean is not so strong as the waves of thy longing. Come with me in my curragh, the gleaming, straight-gliding crystal canoe. Soon we can reach Boadag's realm. I see the bright sun sink, yet far as it is, we can reach it before dark. There is, too, another land worthy of thy journey, a land joyous to all that seek it. Only wives and maidens dwell there. If thou wilt, we can seek it and live there alone together in joy."

In Shyamalan's film, however, the hero must stay behind, yet in spite of the past tragedies, he is transformed by his encounter with the creature from another dimension.

Her welcome, like her love for me

Is from her heart within:

Her warm kiss is felicity

That knows no taint of sin.

And, when I stir my foot to go,

'Tis leaving Love and light

To feel the wind of longing blow

From out the dark of night.
(from the song "My Lagan Love")

I recommend the film to all who possess the child-like sense of the mystery latent in the created world.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the review of Lady in the Water.
The girls and I have enjoyed all of M. Knight Sh.'s
movies, but were hesitant about this one. BOth the
previews and the reviews made it seem less than his
usual work. We will definitely check it out now!

Anonymous said...

Dear Blogkeeper,

I'm so glad to hear yet another sane and rational voice looking at the film and judging it by what it is rather than by what they would have it be.

I've seen it twice, once in the theatres, once at a friend's house. The second time I kept trying to understand what others found so difficult or objectionable.

Couldn't see it. Glad to see that I'm not the only one.



Anonymous said...

After reading your references to Irish lore, and Ireland being an island, it occurred to me that the characters in the movie, living in an apartment building, were not unlike living on an island. Beautiful review! I enjoyed reading it even more than seeing the movie.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, everyone! I hope my review helped to see the magic that I saw in it!

Ted said...

I too have enjoyed most of Shyamalan's previous work and had intended to see this in theatre when it was first released but missed it - life gets so busy with competing priorities. Thanks to your review, I'll make an effort to catch it on DVD or cable.