Eye For Film >> Movies >> Lady In The Water (2006) DVD Review
Lady In The Water
Reviewed by: Anton BitelRead Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Lady In The Water
Poor M Night Shyamalan. Lumbered with the label genius for his flawlessly constructed twister The Sixth Sense, only to discover the law of diminishing returns with each of his subsequent films. It is not that Unbreakable, Signs and The Village are bad - indeed, they are all far more thoughtful than your average multiplex fare. They are, however, less than what might be expected from, well, a genius, and so once again a decent enough filmmaker is traduced by his own press.
Problems really started to surface with his latest and weakest film, the adult fairytale Lady in the Water, in which, by casting himself as an apparently ordinary man whose true, epoch-making genius would only be recognised by future generations, he seemed to be suggesting that even he had come to believe his own press.
The fact that the (barely) human villain of the piece is an uncomprehending film critic served as a pre-emptive, if rather blunt, strike against those (and there were many) who would judge Lady In The Water a rather tepid work born of misguided hubris. Even Disney, more fond of bedtime stories than most, spotted a dud early on, forcing Shyamalan to switch backers. One can only assume that Warners rue the day they let him move in. For the finished film received a less than adulatory responses, the returns were not good at the box office, and the Shyamalan brand has now sunk right to the bottom of the pool.
Curiously, none of this background information finds its way into the otherwise fairly comprehensive extras that accompany the dvd for Lady In The Water. Instead, there is an earnest attempt to put the best possible gloss on a mediocre product.
Indeed, one of the only hints of the troubled waters that afflicted the film comes in Lady In the Water: A Bedtime Story, a five-minute featurette patently designed to plug the children's book that Shyamalan has created alongside the film. "My hope for the book," he says, "is that it is not tied to the movie." No doubt his publishers will agree, given the thorough drubbing that the film received. Still, Crash McCreery's illustrations for the book are darkly attractive, and this is a story that might after all be better suited to young readers rather than older viewers (it started as a story that Shyamalan improvised to his own children at bedtime).
Despite its pretentious title, the 35-minute Reflections Of Lady In The Water is a bog-standard making-of featurette, interspersing on-set footage with soundbites from cast and crew. The players tend to restrict themselves to describing their characters, which is informative really only to those who have not yet seen the film. Far more interesting are the details about the production itself. The apartment complex in which the film takes place was custom-built to full scale for the purpose (we even see timelapse footage of its rise, Babel-like, from the ground). Shyamalan reveals, with an ominousness that appears to escape him, that his script went through 13 redrafts as his most trusted friends kept telling him they did not "get it".
Best of all is the section on the film's real hero, legendary cinematographer Chris Doyle, who half-boasts half-complains that it was "extremely therapeutic" to work on the storyboards in an office rather than a noisy bar (the latter being his usual practice). Doyle also claims to love handheld camerawork because "the dance is the thing", and suggests that his purpose is "always to be the clown". None of this, of course, tells us much about his art, but its sheer eccentricity makes it well worth the time it takes to view.
Lastly there are two short-and-sweet minutes of good-humoured audition footage, a three-minute 'gag reel' of on-set clowning and corpsing, a teaser and theatrical trailer, and five minutes of entirely expendable deleted scenes. "Is it really an eagle that takes you? A silent one?" asks one character with an absurdly straight face. "Is the three little pigs story true too?", asks another. If only these two lines had been kept in the film, placed alongside one another…Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2007