M. Night Shyamalan analysis project overview

Montages is running an analysis project about M. Night Shyamalan‘s films, originating from studies of his early works from 1999 to 2006: The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), The Village (2004) and Lady in the Water (2006).

The project consists of the following articles, all written by Dag Sodtholt, a Norwegian film critic and General Secretary of the Norwegian Film Critics Association:

From the nucleus of the director’s early films, the project was later extended to the rest of his filmography, written by the same author, first about the three compromised works in his period of large studio projects without final cut from 2008 to 2013, followed by the re-establishment of full artistic control from 2015:

  • The Happening (2008): in three parts: a walkthrough of its third act: here, about the suicide scenes, motifs, visual approach and references to earlier films: here, and about themes, its problematic tone, a celebration of Ashlyn Sanchez, and its relationship to the original script, called The Green Effect: here.
  • The Last Airbender (2010), in two parts: a general evaluation and about characters, critical reception, handling of exposition, references to earlier films, and the moon motif: here, and about other motifs, formal strategies, and a walkthrough of the six Fire Lord scenes and the film’s monumental climax: here.
  • After Earth (2013), in two parts: a general evaluation, the father-son relationship, and references to earlier films: here, and about three brilliant scenes, structural properties and staging of scenes: here.
  • The Visit (2015): a piece on this film is in the works.
  • Split (2016), in four parts: a general article, and three analytical articles: on isolation, the abduction scene and major motifs: here, the psychiatrist scenes and references to earlier films: here, and about its cinematic form and some other key scenes: here.
  • Glass (2019): a general article (including references to earlier films), with analytical pieces to follow.

Not included in the project is Shyamalan’s debut film, the ultra-low-budget Praying with Anger (1992), which has never seen an official home-media release, and Wide Awake (1998), which has been disowned by the director due to producer interference.

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The project originated from a desire to write a reappraisal of Lady in the Water, a film that was misunderstood and unfairly maligned in its time. The project then developed into an in-depth exploration of M. Night Shyamalan‘s five films from 1999 to 2006 – often referred to as the Shyamalan pentalogy throughout the articles – which can be said to constitute one long film revolving around the same themes, motifs and visual style. Consequently, the two Lady in the Water articles were written first and are somewhat differently organised than the rest of the pieces. A general overview of common Shyamalan themes and motifs in the very first published article can be directly viewed here, and might be a suitable introduction for readers unfamiliar with Shyamalan’s work.

All of the articles will assume the reader to be familiar with the films and are not overly concerned with recounting the plot. There are links, however, to the Wikipedia entries

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The rest of this piece details common themes, motifs and trademarks; statistics concerning dialogue and shot length; a list of long takes per film; writings and other resources of Shyamalan’s films, Metacritic reviews, and box office figures.

[under construction] Common themes, motifs, trademarks

The Sixth Sense

Unbreakable

Signs

The Village

Lady in the Water

The Happening

  • bleakness: the whole idea of a suicide epidemic; several of the suicide scenes convey intense existential dread: the two park events (here and here), the Princeton car scene (here), the construction site (here); the barricaded house scene (here) sees two teenagers brutally shot, and the second epilogue where the nightmare starts all over
  • cellar: the bare, stone-walled room the hero ends up in during the last outbreak has a cellar feel
  • children or childlike beings: the central couple are childish and Jess is eight
  • colour: blue, yellow and green is part of a colour theory
  • confined space: Mrs. Jones’s farm is isolated, and the heroes end up in separate confined spaces
  • denial: the TV host rejects the idea that humans are a threat to the planet, representing larger society refusing to see the big picture, instead producing a variety of fanciful suggestions to explain away real-life natural disasters; Mrs. Jones is in denial of the outside world
  • director cameo: playing Alma’s admirer, we hear him say “hello” on the phone to her
  • disaster level: the northeast of the US, later in Paris
  • extreme close-up: Elliot during the crisis in the field
  • faith: the hero believes in science and comes to believe in love, Mrs. Jones is a religious fanatic
  • family (and substitutes): the central couple are married and they end up adopting Jess, the daughter of the hero’s best friend, who sacrifices himself to try to save his own wife
  • flashbacks: none
  • hand-held camera: as the builders storm towards the first fallen body
  • home invasion: the Crazy Lady may have experienced this in her past, discussed here
  • humour: permeating the film, including the hero’s penchant for jokes, his wife’s exaggerated anxieties and erroneous references to pop culture, many supporting characters
  • innocence: Jess’s behaviour in some scenes, the hero’s childlike nature and clear-cut belief in scientific thinking
  • jittery slow-motion: during Julian’s farewell to the heroes
  • mentor: none
  • motif: vegetation, dogs, hands, houses, the colour theory
  • overhead shot: one during the builders suicide scene, two in the barricaded house scene
  • panic attack: Jess runs away from the barricaded house after the two youths have been killed
  • past/ancient history: the Crazy Lady’s springhouse was used to hide people from slave chasers
  • past trauma: unusually, the heroes have no trauma – their marital problems hardly qualify – but the Crazy Lady obviously has had a difficult past
  • purpose: the central couple unite in mutual love and start a family
  • references: this chapter in this article
  • ritual: the couple are reunited in the climax in a scene with ritualistic overtones; suicide victims repeat phrases, stop dead in their tracks, sometimes walk backwards; Elliot emphasises “the rules of scientific investigation” (identify variables, design the experiment, careful observation and measurement, interpretation of experimental data); Private Auster follows military procedure (“if you can’t find a way through the area of attack, we are told to find a safe zone within the area being attacked”); people are comforted by numbers, knitting, gun-handling and religious iconography
  • secret: only mildly: Alma is keeping an admirer and a date with him from Elliot
  • slow motion: in the barricaded house scene Elliot storms towards the gun trying to save Jared
  • social criticism: mankind’s complacency towards environmental issues
  • storytelling/self-reflexivity: none
  • supernatural: only speculation as to metaphorical properties of the disaster
  • twist: none
  • violence: brutal executions of the teenagers in the barricaded house scene, up-close stabbing of the throat in the opening scene, also more discrete violence in other suicide scenes
  • voice-over: none
  • water: Mrs. Jones’s lemon drink is an iconic element of her introduction scene
  • withdrawal from society: Mrs. Jones has no contact with the outside world and lives without electricity, and it is implicit in the escape from population centres and surviving by avoiding too-large groups of people

The Last Airbender

  • bleakness: none
  • cellar: none, except perhaps the dungeon where Aang is held captive
  • children or childlike beings: the monastery children in the flashbacks; Aang, Katara and Sokka are teenagers; probably Prince Zuko and Princess Yue as well; Vincent Malausa in Cahiers du cinéma points out, as retold by David Davison here, the “idea of tragedy which is that of children, who are condemned to carry the weight of the world of their shoulders, and have to start acting like adults.”
  • colour: The crest of the climax is filmed in a blue-green monochrome
  • confined space: none
  • denial: Aang evading the responsibility of being Avatar; Aang also has unprocessed grief, as the Dragon Spirit says: “You are not dealing with the loss of your people, and your responsibility for their deaths. You are stopping yourself from grieving. You are angry. You must let this go.”; Zhao about to kill the Moon Spirit says, “The Fire Nation is too powerful to worry about children’s superstitions,” although he is clearly afraid; The Fire Nation generally since it “doesn’t wish to live by the Spirits. That’s why they’re so frightened by the existence of the Avatar.”
  • director cameo: supposedly one of the guards at the Earth prison camp
  • disaster level: whole world engulfed in war, the Fire Nation devastates the other tribes, powerless against “huge machines made of metal”, its killing of the Moon Spirit unbalances world completely, the arrival of their warships is, tellingly for the ecological undercurrent, announced by a pollutant, the “black snow”
  • extreme close-up: Aang when discovered by Fire soldiers at Water village; Aang before his three forays into the Spirit World; Aang before his last monastery flashback; very tight close-ups of Aang during discussion at Earth village; some shots where Aang’s face dominates the foreground LINK; General Iroh as he summons his fire power inside the spirit cave
  • faith: the belief in the Spirit World; Princess Yue saying: “It is time we show the Fire Nation we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in theirs.”
  • family (and substitutes): Katara and Sokka have lost their mother and their father is away at the wars; Zuko too has lost his mother; Zuko is cast out by father and further says in a soliloquy: “My sister Azula was always the special one. She was a Firebending prodigy. My father loves her. He can’t even look at me sometimes. He says I’m like my mother.”; General Iroh has lost his son; Iroh is substitute father of Zuko; the monk Gyatso is substitute father of Aang
  • flashbacks: Aang has three about the monastery; Zuko has one about being scarred and cast out by his father
  • hand-held camera: probably none
  • home invasion: possibly the Fire Nation soldiers raiding the Southern Water Tribe village
  • humour: see here and here
  • innocence: the monastery children in the flashbacks: Aang before learning of the massacre of his people, then he is about loss of innocence; the same with Zuko who is unable to lead a normal life; Sokka who experiences the loss of Princess Yue, his love
  • jittery slow-motion: none
  • mentor: Aang for the whole world: “With his mastery of the four elements, he will begin to change hearts. And it is in the heart that all wars are won.”; Aang and Katara for each other; Master Pakku for Aang and Katara in refining their waterbending; the Dragon Spirit for Aang; the monk Kyatso for Aang; General Iroh for Zuko; the grandmother for Katara and Sokka; Sokka is a (comical) mentor for the village children but due to cuts we see only a tiny remnant
  • motif: moon, four, circle, reveal
  • overhead shot: two during opening sequence with Katara and Sokka following tracks and running away from globe coming up from the ice; characters looking down at dead Moon Spirit floating in pond; Princess Yue sacrificing her life in pond; Aang running between ranks of fighting soldiers; twice as Aang summoning water masses at the beginning of climax (see slide show here)
  • panic attack: none
  • past/ancient history: the chamber of statues of previous avatars
  • past trauma: Zuko being scarred and cast out by his father and denied his love; Zuko also seems very attached to his dead mother; Katara and Sokka probably about the dead mother, killed by the Fire Nation in an attack on the village, although this is hardly touched upon
  • purpose: Aang embracing being the Avatar and realise his full powers; Katara realising her full waterbending powers; Zuko finding the Avatar to restore his position in the Fire Nation; General Iroh says: “There are reasons each of us are born. We have to find those reasons,” and then Princess Yue, who was given life as a baby by the Moon Spirit, says about sacrificing her life to revive it: “This was the reason I was born.”
  • references: this chapter in the first article
  • ritual: the testing procedure to find if anyone is the Avatar; the bowing before the Avatar and then his sign he is accepting the mantle of the Avatar; the ritualistic body movements involved in bending; meditation about which Aang says: “To get your Airbending tattoos, you have to meditate for long periods of time without losing focus. Some of the great monks can meditate for four days.”
  • secret: not prevalent, but there is Fire Lord Osai and Commander Zhao’s plan to kill the Moon Spirit
  • slow motion: during several fight scenes, where time is also speeded up
  • social criticism: an ecological message abot the ravages of the Fire Nation’s machines
  • storytelling/self-reflexivity: not prominent, but Aang must in real life emulate the “myth” of the Avatar; Katara says to the meditating Aang: “I knew you were real”; in scene at inn, the story of Zuko’s banishment is myth to the little boy but real life to Zuko; Princess Yue becomes one with the Moon Spirit (“my soul will no longer exist in this form”)
  • supernatural: the spirits; the bending powers of the four nations; the flying bison called Appa; the flying animal called Momo; the general fairy-tale nature of this world
  • twist: none
  • violence: the final battle; the fight at the Earth Prison; the driving out of Fire forces from Earth villages: the fight after Aang is freed from the dungeon; the killing of the Moon Spirit; Zuko as the Blue Spirit hit by an arrow
  • voice-over: Katara at various places (papering over cuts)
  • water: waterbending in general; the vast water masses marshalled by Aang at the climax; Princess Yue being “born” and sacrificing her life in water; the pond of the two fish spirits
  • withdrawal from society: none

After Earth

  • bleakness: some, but not prevalent
  • cellar: none
  • children or childlike beings: Kitai is fifteen and there are flashbacks to his childhood
  • colour: no important patterns, the green of the forest is prevalent though
  • confined space: the badly injured Father is confined to the cockpit of the spaceship wreck
  • denial: none clearly enunciated, but Father claims that Kitai’s failure to be promoted to Ranger is due to being “not ready” but he ought to understand that it, and the son’s severe anxiety issues, spring from unprocessed grief over sister’s death
  • director cameo: none
  • disaster level: whole Earth uninhabitable for Man
  • extreme close-up: Father before and after his first flashback; Kitai during epiphany
  • faith: not clearly enunciated but possibly faith in being one with the world, which is root of ability to ghost
  • family (and substitutes): the dead sister; the absent father; the giant bird “adopting” Kitai after death of offspring
  • flashbacks: 22 (Kitai recalls past trauma 4 times, consisting of resp. 7, 2, 3 and 5 short fragments; Kitai recalls dream on the raft; Father has 2 about Senshi and 2 fragments about Kitai as very small child)
  • hand-held camera: Kitai approaching Ursa containment box at the tail end
  • home invasion: the Ursa raided the family home in the past
  • humour: Very little, some joking in Father’s flashbacks; Father’s: “Great work, cadet” after Kitai has managed to apply the antidote is possibly dry humour; Kitai: “That sucked” and Father: “That is correct”; Kitai: “I want to work with Mom” at the end; the behaviour of the Kristofer Hivju character
  • innocence: none
  • jittery slow-motion: in the sickbay at the end
  • mentor: Father is Kitai’s mentor; to a certain extent his sister is too
  • motif: miniature, embrace
  • overhead shot: Three very important shots creating a visual rhyme; the boy and the dead giant bird
  • panic attack: Kitai has several
  • past/ancient history: cave paintings; visual stylisation makes cutlass looks like spear as if characters were primitive humans; the old dam; spaceship is modeled after the aquatic ray, an Earth lifeform of the past of current humanity (details here)
  • past trauma: Kitai is traumatised after witnessing his sister’s death and also because he was afraid and powerless to help her
  • purpose: Kitai must stand on his own feet; find his purpose in life
  • references: this and this chapter in the first article
  • ritual: The Ranger grounding ritual: “Root yourself in this present moment now. Sight, sound, smell. What do you feel?”; the “Take a knee” posture; the military salute; various military procedures; Kitai’s trek through the forest is a rite of passage; Father telling story of his first ghosting, which he probably has done countless times
  • secret: Kitai keeps from his father that he does not have have enough breathing fluid vials to reach the tail end
  • slow motion: during and just after epiphany
  • social criticism: humanity’s past mismanagement of Earth
  • storytelling/self-reflexivity: Father: “We are all telling outselves a story”; Father’s story of his first ghosting
  • supernatural: Father possibly achieves some kind of telepathic communication with his son, its nature unexplained
  • twist: none
  • violence: fight with the Ursa; attacks from apes, feline predators and the giant bird; war scenes from Nova Prime’s past
  • voice-over: Kitai recounting the background story of humanity’s new home on Nova Prime
  • water: Kitai almost drowns in an underground lake
  • withdrawal from society: Earth has “withdrawn” from human society; humanity collectively withdrew from Earth a thousand years ago; Kitai as a child withdrew to the box and has metaphorically stayed there his whole life (Sister says: “You’re still in that box. It’s time to come out.”)

The Visit

Split

  • bleakness: the general kill-or-be-killed mood, the dead deer, Casey’s at times resignation and passivity as regards her captivity, the revelation of her scars
  • cellar: the prisoners are kept in a labyrinthine basement
  • children or childlike beings: 5-year-old Casey, Hedwig
  • colour: no important patterns, but yellow is predominant in the corridor
  • confined space: the cell, the cage in which Casey locks herself in the climax, and many other narrow rooms and corridors
  • denial: Dennis refuses to acknowledge the importance of the incident of sexual harrassment two years ago (most of this could be play-acting though), it seems the full memory of his mother’s abuse (the flashback) only emerges when Kevin’s original personality has the light, Dennis is unable to speak about how his personality came into being (although this is not really denial)
  • director cameo: Jai, the no-good janitor of Dr. Fletcher’s building
  • disaster level: only locally for the three prisoners
  • extreme close-up: quite a few very tight close-ups when another identity is given the light, verging on extreme close-ups, in addition to the three shots of 5-year-old Casey’s eyes
  • faith: The Horde’s belief in The Beast, Dr. Fletcher’s belief in her ideas about DID
  • family (and substitutes): Casey’s dead father, absent (dead?) mother and abusive uncle, Kevin’s absent (dead?) father and his abusive (probably deceased) mother, as her guardian Casey’s uncle is her substitute father, Dr. Fletcher is mother substitute for Kevin, Casey sort of substitute older sister of Hedwig, Dr. Fletcher has always lived alone
  • flashbacks: six for Casey, one for Kevin
  • hand-held camera: none
  • home invasion: the related event of the invasion and hi-jacking of the car
  • humour: the Hedwig character in general, Hedwig’s dance routine (including the frozen hamster at the end), some of Patricia’s traits, the second psychiatry session, Dr. Fletcher’s neighbour, the scene between Fletcher and Jai, the revelation of the many toothbrushes
  • innocence: 5-year-old Casey, Hedwig, Claire and Marcia to some extent having never been exposed to evil
  • jittery slow-motion: none
  • mentor: Dr. Fletcher for Kevin, Casey’s father for her, Patrica for the other members of The Horde, Casey to some extent for Hedwig, Claire to some extent for Marcia (as the dominant part)
  • motif: NOT INCLUDED YET
  • overhead shot: Dr. Fletcher climbing the stairs, Dennis carrying Dr. Fletcher, from above the door when Hedwig leaves the cell and Dennis forces it open, many shots of Claire as she rips open the ceiling (but it is only the first one that is from a height one normally associates with this device)
  • panic attack: Casey has a mild panic attack in the car, she is shaking badly before her first flashback, a total breakdown after the flashback about her sexual abuse as a child, and getting hysterical as she finds herself at a dead end when fleeing The Beast; the shots of Casey and Claire running for their life through the tunnel might also qualify
  • past/ancient history: none
  • past trauma: both Kevin and Casey suffered severe abuse as children
  • purpose: The Horde want to convince the world that DID exists and that it can lead to special powers, they also want to ascend to the next level of humanity, Dr. Fletcher wants to help her patients and spread the word about DID, through her ordeal Casey might have been inspired to break with her abusive uncle
  • references: see this chapter in the third article
  • ritual: “resetting” Kevin by saying his full name, the flower bouquet laid down on the platform in honour of Kevin’s father, The Beast’s emergence must happen in the train station, Dennis’s OCD behaviour, Dennis’s “getting-ready” ritual is mentioned, Patricia putting flowers in the girls’ hair, way of leading them to the kitchen, her insistence that Casey shall “put your hands together in contrition” after her walkie-talkie call for help
  • secret: Dennis withholds from Dr. Fletcher that The Beast is real, Barry keeps the problems of the undesirable identities from her because “…she’ll worry. She’s such a sweet woman.”, The Horde’s lair and the abduction is a secret from the other Zoo workers, Casey hides the scars from her self-abuse
  • slow motion: when Dennis turns toward front seat again after having chloroformed the girls
  • social criticism: not prevalent, but the psychiatric community does not take Dr. Fletcher’s ideas seriously
  • storytelling/self-reflexivity: some of the identities within Kevin believe in the story of The Beast, who at the end becomes real
  • supernatural: The Beast and his superhuman powers, Dr. Fletcher’s statement about the DID-afflicted: “Have these individuals, through their suffering, unlocked the potential of the brain? Is this the ultimate doorway to all things we call unknown? Is this where our sense of the supernatural comes from?”
  • twist: the meta twist of belonging to the same universe as Unbreakable
  • violence: the killing of Claire, Marcia and Dr. Fletcher, Dennis pulling Marcia out of the cell, Marcia hitting Patricia with the chair, Casey and Hedwig’s fight over the walkie-talkie, the climax with Casy shooting at The Beast and his injury of her leg
  • voice-over: none
  • water: none
  • withdrawal from society: Casey is a social misfit who prefers to be alone, Kevin has created his own world in the basement, Dr. Fletcher probably has not much of a social life

Statistics: dialogue

This is based on subtitles files – so it might not be completely accurate since sentences could be simplified to save space – loaded into Word to use its word count function. The duration of the films includes end titles.

  • *) There are five extra “words” in a subtitle file for each line, e.g.: “698 01:34:47,882 –> 01:34:49,008”, for some reason the “–>” counts as two words in Word.
  • **) Line does not mean dialogue line but refers to each numbered line in the subtitle file.
  • ***) This analysis project normally discounts Wide Awake, but it is included here to indicate a drop in word count.
  • ****) The Visit minus Tyler’s three rap numbers yields 72 words per minute.
  • *****) With five minutes added to simulate current films’ long end titles, The Birds ends up with 74.6 words per minute.

*

This is a list of wordless passages per film that go on for (very close to) two minutes or more, given in chronological order. They are described on this form: after <situation with last dialogue/voice-over>, <what happens>, until <next situation with dialogue/voice-over>. (The last part is missing if the next passage starts very shortly after the current one.)

The Sixth Sense

  • 2m 33s after the prologue, Malcolm sits outside reading documents, then follows Cole to the church, goes inside after the boy, until their first conversation
  • 2m 8s after Cole has comforted his mother in her sleep, he encounters the vomiting ghost girl, until he finally dares speak to her
  • 2m after we hear participants at the post-funeral gathering talking in hushed voices about the illnesses having struck the family, Malcolm and Cole go upstairs, where Cole meets the ghost girl, who gives him the box, then he carries it down, until he addresses the grieving father

Unbreakable

  • 2m 16s after David and Joseph have left Elijah’s comic book gallery and their first meeting, David reads a newspaper in his bedroom and then sneaks away to read old clippings in the closet, until Audrey comes to ask him if he has been unfaithful
  • 2m 16s after Elijah’s phone message has ended, David goes to look at the train wreck, the flashback to the car accident starts, until he says Audrey’s name
  • 4m 31s after David has touched the Orange Man at the railway station, yielding the vision of the home invasion (with some dialogue), David follows him to that house, searches inside, finds the captive children
  • 6m 44s after he has briefly comforted the children, another period of silence: he finds the mother of the family, gets pushed into the swimming pool and almost drowns, defeats the Orange Man, returns home and carries Audrey up the stairs, until he tells her: “I had a bad dream”

Signs

  • 2m 11s after Graham has found a new corn circle and shouted out into the night at any perpetrators lurking nearby, on his return he encounters an alien, runs home in panic, enters the kitchen, until the tells the family to turn on the TV
  • 2m 15s after having talked to the alien behind the pantry door pretending to be the police, he looks under the door using a knife blade as a mirror, struggles with the alien, returns home where the rest of the family sit with tin foil hats, until they start talking about the aliens
  • 2m after having told Merrill to swing away, the alien is overcome, the family gather outside over Morgan’s seemingly lifeless body, until Graham starts mumbling about the various coincidences indicating that the boy should make it

The Village

  • 2m 42s after Edward has addressed the villagers after the funeral, howling is heard from the woods, we see glimpses of everyday life in the village, then the village at night including the watch towers, until Edward joins schoolchildren who have found a skinned animal
  • 2m 10s after Ivy has sung a lullaby to herself at night in the the woods, she walks on the next morning, falls into a big hole in the ground, manages to get up again
  • 2m 20s after Edward has intoned in voice-over, “there did exist rumors of creatures in these woods – it is in one of the history books I used to teach in the towns”, a new period of silence, as Ivy walks on, starts to hear sounds of something moving, runs away in panic, into a large field of berries of the bad colour, senses the creature is very close
  • 2m 33s after Ivy has twice said to herself “it is not real”, more silence as she is chased by the creature but manages to trick it into falling into the same hole as earlier, until Noah’s parents enter his prison cell to find him gone
  • 2m 3s after we hear Edward in voice-over instruct Ivy what to do when she reaches a hidden road, we cross-cut between her stumbling along the road and climbing a high fence, and Edward and his wife in their house, opening their secret box, until we hear Edward in voice-over talk about his past trauma

Lady in the Water

  • 3m after having received more information about the Blue World, Mr. Heep dives into the pool to find the magic mud called kii, almost drowns, saves himself, until he encounters Young-Soon who gives him further instructions
  • 2m 16s after the characters have revived Story, they fight the scrunt, until they discover who the Guardian really is (after some brief exclamations about that, there is more silence for 1m 47s)

The Happening

  • 2m 29s after Elliot has decided he cannot stand facing the disaster alone, he walks out into the windy danger zone, Alma does the same together with Jess, they survive, enter the house, sit together in the cellar, until Elliot in voice-over states that “the event must have ended before we went out there”

The Last Airbender

  • 2m 3s after Aang has escaped the dungeon helped by the disguised Zuko, they fight the Fire Lord soldiers, until Commander Zhao puts a stop to it because if they kill the Avatar he will just be reborn again
  • 1m 59s after Iroh has told Zhao that the latter’s big mistake was always standing alone, Zhao is defeated by four waterbenders, Aang navigates the fighting in the square, and runs up to the parapet to face the invader ships
  • 4m 5s after Master Pakku has reminded us in voice-over that “water teaches us acceptance – let your emotions flow like water”, another extensive wordless passage: first a flashback where Aang processes the trauma of having run away from the ceremony to declare him the new Avatar, then he achieves tranquility and new strength, raises the water with majestic force driving away the ships, until Katara wakes him up from his trance

After Earth

  • 3m 4s After Kitai’s father has tried to calm him down during the uncontrolled descent, Kitai wakes up after the crash, pushes a dead crew member out of the ship, and waits around, until his father wakes up
  • 1m 59s after Kitai has shouted to a bird circling high up in the air to leave him alone, he builds a raft and travels down a river, until he is visited by his dead sister in a dream
  • 2m38s after his sister has brutally woken him up from the dream, he discovers that a cold period has started (we disregard here that he starts mumbling his name), he tries to reach a hot spot but succumbs to the cold, but is dragged away by something, then wakes up inside a nest, gets out to discover the big bird lying dead outside
  • 3m 26s after having said “hey, thanks” to the bird – we could certainly have disregarded this to make this a period of 6m 6s (including the two seconds to say the line) – another long silent period: he reaches the tail, finds new breathing fluid vials, a cutlass, a radio and the beacon, then we are back to his father who has a flashback about Kitai as a little boy, until the father says “no” as a sign that he refuses to die (disregarding that too, it is another 40 seconds until Kitai tries to call up his father on the radio)
  • 4m 34s after Kitai’s father realises that the Ursa has discovered his son and wills him to run (radio contact is down), there is a long chase scene in the mountain caves, Kitai manages to reach the plateau, but the Ursa is right behind him and throws him to the ground, until Kitai’s recurring trauma flashback comes for the last time
  • 3m 51s after Kitai’s sister has whispered to him, “you’re still in that box – it’s time to come out”, he has a breakthrough, triumphantly defeats the Ursa, activates the beacon, a team come to rescue his father, until Kitai enters the sickbay of the rescue ship and his father demands that the others help him stand up to salute his son

The Visit

  • 2m 6s after Becca has helped Tyler clean his hands, the sundowning Nana finds the hidden camera, brings it upstairs together with a knife, starts banging on the locked door, until inside their room Tyler calls out Becca’s name and she tells him to stay in bed (after this there is 45 seconds of more silence, with the night scene continuing, afterwards shots outside from the next morning until the kids decide to leave after viewing that night’s footage)

Split

  • (2m 43s after Claire has pointed out that Dennis must have taken the wrong car, he chloroforms Claire and Marcia, has a stand-off with Casey, transports the girls through a corridor, until Casey wakes up in the cell; interspersed, however, are 1m 14s of various title cards)
  • 2m 11s after security guards have noticed and dismissed The Beast’s presence at the railway yards, there is crosscutting between The Beast hurrying home, Casey trying to get out of the outer room, the other girls trying to escape from the storage rooms, and Dr. Fletcher starting to wake up from her drugged state, then we stay with her, she scribbles down Kevin’s full name, until The Beast arrives with a “thank you for helping us till now” (her gasped attempts during the passage to say Kevin’s name have been disregarded)

Glass

  • 1m 56s after The Beast has told the homeless people “I am you”, David finds and releases the four captive girls, until one of the girls exclaims “Where did it go?” about the newly arrived Beast (two shouts of “Come on!” as the girls struggle with their chains have been disregarded)
  • 1m 53s after David has commanded the girls to “Leave!”, he fights The Beast, crashing through the window with him, and then they are surprised by the police, until the emerged identity Barry shouts “Don’t. Don’t! Don’t shoot!”
  • 2m 8s after Joseph has said “I’m leaving” in the comic book store, he discovers the clue from the comic book, finds out who Kevin’s father is from the internet (his barely audible “Oh, my God” is disregarded), and we look in at David moping in his cell, Elijah waiting in his own, and Dr. Staple thoughtful in the surgery room, until the children are making noise in Casey’s foster home, playing tag and hot potato (a case could be made that their words are not meaningful dialogue, if so the period could be extended to 2m 50s)
  • 1m 56 after Elijah and Patricia have taken the elevator, David breaks out of his cell, Elijah and Patricia are discovered by the nurses in the basement, the three supporting characters intercept Dr. Staple outside, David finds his clothes in the storage room, until Dr. Staple discusses the situation with the visitors in her office (before this and Elijah’s “go through the basement” in the elevator, there is a 1m 9s dialogue-free stretch after The Beast has killed Pierce, with David’s first efforts breaking out, and Elijah and Patricia leaving the ward)

Statistics: shot length

The below table shows various groups of shot lengths, both in specific numbers and in percentage of the whole film, plus ASL (Average Shot Length) for each film. (Statistics for Lady in the Water are not available yet.)

Long takes (30 seconds or more)

Films are listed in chronological order. “Nearly single-shot scene” means that the scene consists of just one more relatively short shot.

The Sixth Sense

25 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 160 seconds last shot of dinner scene with Cole and his mother (shot no. 444)
  • 118 restaurant scene with Malcolm and his wife (shot no. 197)*
  • 112 first shot of breakfast with Cole and his mother (shot no. 140)**
  • 109 Cole brings box to deceased girl’s father (shot no. 551)**
  • 109 first shot of “second ending”, camera moves up to Cole and his mother in the car (shot no. 607)
  • 102 last shot of scene with Malcolm and Cole with ghosts of hanged people at school (shot no. 438)
  • 99 antique shop with Malcolm’s wife and two amusing customers (shot no. 451)*
  • 75 Malcolm and Cole walking in street talking (shot no. 198)*
  • 69 antique shop with Malcolm’s wife and her suitor (shot no. 452)**
  • 68 first shot of Malcolm in the cellar studying before he notices his wife’s visitor (shot no. 231)
  • 58 first shot of Malcolm and Cole inside house of burial gathering (shot no. 543)
  • 52 first shot of mother coming home from hospital with sleeping Cole (shot no. 393)
  • 45 Malcolm and his wife celebrate his public citation in living room (shot no. 8)
  • 45 Malcolm’s speech to sleeping wife (shot no. 688)
  • 44 last shot of second ghost scene with boy with gunshot wound in head, Cole and his mother embrace desperately (shot no. 449)
  • 43 Malcolm and Cole arrive at burial gathering (shot no. 542)*
  • 42 Malcom in street outside home, spotting his wife’s suitor leaving (shot no. 515)*
  • 40 close-up of Malcolm in crucial scene of listening to and rewinding tape incessantly (shot no. 481)
  • 36 second shot of opening cellar scene with Malcolm’s wife (shot no. 4)
  • 33 first shot of Cole’s mother tidying before finding pages of automatic writing (shot no. 217)
  • 33 Cole comforts sleeping mother who is having a bad dream (shot no. 518)
  • 31 first shot of birthday party, Cole showing trick to boy (shot no. 305)
  • 31 outside supermarket, mother driving Cole in trolley (shot no. 441)*
  • 31 first shot of school play performance (shot no. 580)
  • 30 segment of video watched by deceased girl’s father (shot no. 560)

Unbreakable

61 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 229 seconds David trying to seduce train passenger (shot no. 7)
  • 174 David and Audrey speaking at restaurant bar (shot no. 196)*
  • 140 flashback of car accident (shot no. 208)*
  • 132 David and Elijah talking on top of stadium (shot no. 95)*
  • 129 Elijah as a kid and his mother, reflected in TV screen (shot no. 50)**
  • 129 Joseph pointing gun at David in the kitchen, with Audrey (shot no. 183)
  • 126 the birth of Elijah and discovery of broken bones (shot no. 3)*
  • 126 David waking up in emergency ward (shot no. 24)*
  • 119 David at exhibition at Elijah’s gallery speaking to his mother (shot no. 298)*
  • 114 Elijah and Audrey talking at rehab centre (shot no. 163)
  • 111 David met by Audrey and Joseph in hospital reception (shot no. 25)*
  • 111 Audrey asks David if he has been unfaithful  (shot no. 84)*
  • 109 last shot of David speaking to elderly school nurse (shot no. 179)
  • 108 David talking to Audrey about never having been sick (shot no. 49)*
  • 101 David fighting Orange Man in bedroom (shot no. 281)**
  • 91 David carrying Audrey upstairs, home after defeating Orange Man (shot no. 283)**
  • 72 David listening to phone message from Elijah (shot no. 203)*
  • 65 David and Aubrey speaking, home from restaurant (shot no. 202)
  • 64 Elijah in conversation with buyer at comics art gallery, reflected in display glass casing (shot no. 59)
  • 62 second shot in Elijah’s office, camera closing in on him (shot no. 68)
  • 62 first shot of revelation scene between David and Elijah (shot no. 299)
  • 61 comic book clerk trying to wheel Elijah out of store (shot no. 192)
  • 58 David and Joseph leaving Elijah’s office, shot from high vantage point (shot no. 73)
  • 57 second shot of David rejecting Elijah at gallery (shot no. 186)
  • 55 first shot in Elijah’s office, camera gliding back and forth between him and David/Joseph (shot no. 67)
  • 55 David and Joseph talking at the park (shot no. 132)
  • 54 David and Joseph speaking in the school yard (shot no. 180)*
  • 53 David talking to secretary at stadium (shot no. 42 )*
  • 47 first shot of David rejecting Elijah at gallery (shot no. 185)
  • 47 David following Orange Man at railway station (shot no. 225)
  • 46 David trying out powers at stadium (shot no. 165)
  • 45 curtain shot through which we glimpse David entering room with dead woman (shot no. 246)*
  • 42 Elijah gives buyer a dressing down for his disrespect of comics (shot no. 64)
  • 41 Elijah at hospital with doctor enumerating broken bones (shot no. 160)*
  • 40 last shot of weightlifting scene with David and Joseph (shot no. 159)
  • 39 David and Audrey speaking to Joseph before going out (shot no. 190)*
  • 38 David starts interrogating drug dealer at stadium (shot no. 173)
  • 37 David talking to boss in dressing room (shot no. 47)*
  • 37 David lifting the heaviest weights in cellar, shot from above (shot no. 155)
  • 37 Elijah gets phone call from David who accepts his powers (shot no. 209)*
  • 37 continuation of frames-within-frames shot of David inside victim house, after spotting dead man on cellar stairs (shot no. 238)
  • 37 David untying children inside victim house (shot no. 245)
  • 36 David and Elijah walking along stadium queue (shot no. 89)
  • 35 memorial service inside church (shot no. 37)*
  • 35 first shot of scene with David in closet to look at clippings (shot no. 76)
  • 35 David and Elijah talk at stadium, seen through bars (shot no. 87 )*
  • 35 David crawling out of pool, children watching (shot no. 279)
  • 35 Joseph coming down to join David and Audrey for breakfast (shot no. 285)
  • 34 third shot in Elijah’s office, camera closing in on David and Joseph (shot no. 69)
  • 34 irritated comic book clerk discovers Elijah is disabled (shot no. 189)
  • 33 David lifting weights in cellar, shot from above (shot no. 141)
  • 33 David entering train hall with wreck (shot no. 205)
  • 32 David leaning towards train window looking very sad (shot no. 9)
  • 32 David frisking drug dealer at stadium and letting him go (shot no. 174)
  • 32 second shot of David at railway station (shot no. 211)
  • 31 David and Joseph enter gallery, speaking to Elijah, seen through window (shot no. 66)
  • 31 fourth shot in Elijah’s office, close-up of him (shot no. 70)
  • 31 fifth shot in Elijah’s office, close-up of David and Joseph (shot no. 71)
  • 31 David looking at train wreck (shot no. 206)
  • 31 frames-within-frames shot of David inside victim house (shot no. 234)
  • 30 David at railway station after first “touch flashback” (shot no. 213)

Signs

32 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 97 seconds last shot, camera circle-pans Graham’s bedroom where he exits bathroom having donned a priest’s habit (shot no. 586)*
  • 87 Merrill’s monologue in nighttime conversation about there being two groups of people (shot no. 260)
  • 86 Graham’s monologue in nighttime conversation about there being two groups of people (shot no. 259)
  • 80 first shot of family having returned upstairs from cellar (shot no. 520)
  • 72 Graham tells Bo the story of how she was born (shot no. 425)
  • 70 family gather around Morgan outside, Graham won’t accept he’s dead (shot no. 585)*
  • 65 Family discusses the menu for their “last meal” (shot no. 397)*
  • 59 Graham tells Morgan the story of how he was born (shot no. 439)
  • 57 Graham comes in, family gather around kitchen table (shot no. 246)*
  • 57 the others remain in cellar while Merrill checks if aliens have left upstairs (shot no. 519)
  • 56 cellar: Graham and Merrill stand over Morgan lying in foreground (shot no. 518)
  • 54 Graham makes phone call and children shows him sick dog in kitchen (shot no. 27)
  • 53 Morgan and Bo with the aggressive dog (shot no. 31)**
  • 52 Graham and Merrill discussing how to deal with nighttime intruder (shot no. 64)
  • 51 Graham and children read book about extraterrestrials (shot no. 291)
  • 46 family and sheriff watch first TV reports on aliens (shot no. 112)
  • 45 Merrill calms down children in front of TV after Graham has abruptly left (shot no. 392)
  • 42 Graham speaks with sheriff (shot no. 29)
  • 41 Graham at night discovering flattened part of field (shot no. 232)
  • 36 Merrill and Morgan speak with sheriff (shot no. 81)
  • 36 close-up of sheriff in second flashback telling Graham how badly injured wife is (shot no. 502)
  • 35 Family watches TV in stylised composition, children in foreground, adults in sofa(shot no. 250)
  • 35 Merrill and children sit in sofa with tin foil hats, discussing with Graham (shot no. 361)
  • 34 Graham and sheriff discuss situation after first TV report (shot no. 115)*
  • 34 Graham rising from sofa (shot no. 278)**
  • 34 family in cellar with aliens banging on door (shot no. 459)
  • 34 cellar: Bo picks up flashlight, revealing that Merrill has barricaded coal chute door (shot no. 481)
  • 34 cellar: close-up of Merrill and Bo looking off-screen at Graham who tries to calm down Morgan’s asthma attack (shot no. 495)
  • 32 cellar: Merrill telling Graham that he can’t take Graham losing faith (shot no. 514)
  • 31 inside closet Merrill informs Graham about events of the night’s TV broadcasts (shot no. 279)
  • 31 pantry door scene: Graham starts to leave, stops in kitchen door, returns (shot no. 348)
  • 30 family inside car discuss signals Morgan picks up on babycall (shot no. 178)

The Village

52 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 183 seconds Lucius declares his love for Ivy (shot no. 230)
  • 164 Edward explains secret of monsters to Ivy (shot no. 298)*
  • 154 last shot, everyone by Lucius’s bed and Ivy enters (shot no. 389)*
  • 142 Edward and Ivy walk towards shed (shot no. 268)*
  • 89 creature appears near Ivy (shot no. 326)
  • 83 Fenton leaves Ivy to make her way through the woods alone (shot no. 294)*
  • 81 Lucius and Ivy talking by porch (shot no. 149)
  • 71 Ivy declares to Edward her intention to go to the towns for medicine for Lucius (shot no. 262)*
  • 71 second shot of elders’ outdoors meeting (shot no. 301)
  • 69 Tabitha protests to Edward about Ivy’s plan to go to the towns (shot no. 266)*
  • 68 Edward tells Alice he has sent Ivy to the towns (shot no. 299)*
  • 66 bloodied Noah discovered by parents on porch (shot no. 243)*
  • 63 town meeting due to skinned animal discovered (shot no. 53)**
  • 63 Edward and Judy discuss her intended marriage with Lucius (shot no. 55)**
  • 61 Ivy climbs out of hole and staggers over to dead tree (shot no. 315)
  • 58 Lucius claims to Alice, his mother, that Edward has feelings for her (shot no. 138)
  • 58 Ivy and Judy make sure they are reconciled about Ivy’s love for Lucius (shot no. 233)*
  • 56 Ivy walks to Lucius’s house upon hearing of bloodied Noah (shot no. 248)*
  • 54 Lucius walks towards red bush, discovers monster lurking (shot no. 144)
  • 53 in first shot of guardhouse scene Kevin enters and Jay gives good advice (shot no. 380)
  • 51 Edward teaching children in school (shot no. 29)*
  • 51 Judy crying on bed while Ivy comforts her and rest of family watch (shot no. 63)*
  • 50 Vivian Percy reads Lucius’s written confession during town meeting after monster invasion (shot no. 184)
  • 49 Ivy and Noah standing in door of quiet room (shot no. 92)*
  • 48 Edward and villagers listen to boys’ report about animal atrocities (shot no. 219)
  • 47 secret of shed revealed (shot no. 295)
  • 47 Ivy reaches gravel road in the woods (shot no. 347)*
  • 45 Edward, Tabitha and doctor discuss what to do with injured Lucius (shot no. 264)*
  • 45 Noah in the hole (shot no. 343)*
  • 44 girls sweeping porch discover red flower and bury it (shot no. 23)*
  • 44 in guardhouse Kevin steals medicine and asks Jay about ladder (shot no. 383)
  • 43 third shot of elders’ outdoors meeting (shot no. 302)
  • 39 Ivy walks out and sits down beside Lucius on porch (shot no. 229)
  • 39 last shot of Noah’s murder attempt of Lucius (shot no. 241)
  • 39 Ivy hears something breaking and throws rock to see if that is echoed too (shot no. 320)
  • 38 Elders’ inquiry about animal atrocities, Lucius and Ivy’s love also raised (shot no. 232)*
  • 36 first shot of burial in opening scene (shot no. 8)
  • 36 Ivy bends down over injured Lucius on floor (shot no. 250)
  • 36 Ivy reaches perimeter and climbs it (shot no. 350)**
  • 35 Fenton in watchtower sounds alarm because of monster invasion (shot no. 155)
  • 35 opening shot of marriage celebration, Ivy embracing Judy (shot no. 202)
  • 35 first shot of Noah’s murder attempt of Lucius (shot no. 234)
  • 34 Lucius and Fenton in the watchtower (shot no. 50)**
  • 32 Edward walks towards Lucius during town meeting after monster invasion (shot no. 185)
  • 31 Ivy and Noah start foot race towards resting rock (shot no. 93)
  • 31 empty village outside town meeting after monster invasion (shot no. 181)
  • 31 Ivy alone in the night in the woods (shot no. 307)*
  • 31 the camera slowly closes in on photo in box (shot no. 358)
  • 30 Ivy, Lucius and children cower in cellar during monster invasion (shot no. 178)
  • 30 Edward and Alice discuss animal atrocities outside barn (shot no. 225)*
  • 30 Alice, Edward, Tabitha, doctor by Lucius’s sickbed (shot no. 346)*
  • 30 between Edward and Tabitha we glimpse items they take out of box (shot no. 354)

Lady in the Water

— long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

The Happening

15 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 87 seconds lady speaking on phone with daughter who commits suicide (shot no. 308)
  • 77 discussion on television after disaster is over (shot no. 694)
  • 72 exploring the “fake house” (shot no. 424)
  • 68 crossroads scene, meeting up with soldier and others (shot no. 301)
  • 56 Elliot and Julian talking outside school (shot no. 91)*
  • 52 close shot of Eliot discussing situation with Alma through speaking tube after they have shut the doors to the wind (shot no. 639)
  • 49 Elliot in diner talking to Jess about mood ring (shot no. 178)
  • 49 last shot of Princeton suicide scene, car crash and Julian’s death  (shot no. 286)
  • 47 last shot of gun-sharing mass suicide scene (shot no. 142)
  • 43 Elliot talking to plant inside “fake house” (shot no. 423)
  • 41 Elliot wandering around the “crazy lady” house in the morning (shot no. 584)
  • 34 Elliot, Alma, Jess and the two young men discover empty car (shot no. 411)
  • 33 during Elliot’s lesson in classroom (shot no. 39)
  • 30 Elliot coming home, watching news with Alma (shot no. 95)
  • 30 Alma on train talking on phone with admirer (shot no. 144)

The Last Airbender

22 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 84 seconds first shot inside chamber of statues (shot no. 370)
  • 80 fight scene inside earthbender prison camp (shot no. 273)
  • 59 Prince Zuko returns to port city while General Iroh gets a foot massage (shot no. 482)*
  • 53 Aang and Katara dancing in unison, interrupted by “black snow” (shot no. 529)**
  • 51 Katara and Sokka discussing what to do after Aang has been taken away by Zuko (shot no. 96)*
  • 50 opening scene with Katara and Sokka fishing (shot no. 4)
  • 50 first shot inside prison camp, the earthbender’s story (shot no. 266)
  • 46 third shot of first dialogue scene between Princess Yue and Sokka (shot no. 526)
  • 43 Commander Zhao interrogating the chained Aang inside dungeon (shot no. 390)**
  • 41 Katara opening up to a meditating Aang in the spirit cave, interrupted by Zuko (shot no. 556)
  • 41 Zhao discusses with Iroh on warship, humiliating him (shot no. 521)
  • 40 discussion between Iroh and stow-away Zuko on warship (shot no. 527)*
  • 40 discussion between Yue and Sokka before she gives her life (shot no. 716)
  • 39 the last meeting with the dragon spirit (shot no. 600)
  • 38 practicing by the brook (shot no. 309)
  • 37 Aang and Zuko’s cat-and-mouse game in storeroom (shot no. 622)
  • 37 second of the three shots of epilogue, Fire Lord explaining his plans for world domination (shot no. 821)
  • 33 first shot of fight scene after Aang’s escape from dungeon (shot no. 417)
  • 32 Fire Lord reveals plan of killing the Moon Spirit to Zhao (shot no. 509)**
  • 32 Aang sparring with Master Pakku (shot no. 515)
  • 30 second shot of first dialogue scene between Yue and Sokka (shot no. 525)
  • 30 a torn Aang with the battle on the square in slow-motion in the background (shot no. 708)**

After Earth

10 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 61 seconds start of Father’s story of first ghosting (shot no. 552)
  • 46 Father tells Kitai that he is coming with him on a space trip, camera pulls out to take in city (shot no. 92)*
  • 42 Father checking vibrations in hull (shot no. 144)*
  • 37 Father logging message that he has lost contact with Kitai (shot no. 746)*
  • 37 Kitai discovers bird outside “nest” at hot spot (shot no. 828)
  • 37 Father waking up to renewed communication from son (shot no. 855)
  • 36 Father and son interacting after take-off (shot no. 119)**
  • 33 Father gives boy instructions including about hot-spots while camera is closing in on him across holographic map (shot no. 382)
  • 30 Father restarting ship’s computer (shot no. 304)
  • 30 Kitai’s tirade against Father before he throws himself off cliff (shot no. 627)

The Visit

54 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 138 seconds Mom’s story about her parents in the epilogue (shot no. 325)
  • 123 Becca’s confession (shot no. 152)*
  • 103 Nana running around at night, sundowning (shot no. 141)*
  • 99 Becca cleaning the oven inside (shot no. 134)*
  • 99 Pop Pop’s interview (shot no. 187)*
  • 97 Tyler’s confession, football game part (shot no. 149)
  • 93 Pop Pop explaining sundowning and getting ready for costume party (shot no. 116)*
  • 83 Tyler rapping for Nana in kitchen (shot no. 33)*
  • 83 Tyler rapping in epilogue (shot no. 332)*
  • 81 Nana laughing crazily, telling Becca about Deep Darkies (shot no. 161)*
  • 76 Becca finds dead bodies in cellar, soon Pop Pop is chasing her around (shot no. 278)*
  • 71 The kids discuss the first day’s footage (shot no. 42)*
  • 65 Pop Pop attacks bystander in town (shot no. 106)*
  • 64 Nana’s first interview (shot no. 136)
  • 63 Nana throwing up during the night (shot no. 55)**
  • 63 Tyler discovering the secret of the shed (shot no. 98)
  • 63 Nana scraping at doors and walls during the night (shot no. 113)
  • 61 Life-or-death struggle between Becca and Nana (shot no. 292)
  • 60 Nana carrying “hidden” camera upstairs, brandishing a knife (shot no. 176)
  • 58 Tyler decides to use female singers as swearwords (shot no. 51)*
  • 57 A visitor from the hospital arrives asking for the grandparents (shot no. 92)**
  • 56 Pop Pop is having an “accident”, Nana starts munching cakes frantically (shot no. 273)
  • 55 Tyler’s first rapping session, on the train (shot no. 18)*
  • 53 First Skype conversation with Mom (shot no. 46)*
  • 53 Becca performs a jump scare on Tyler (shot no. 161)*
  • 52 Becca prevents Tyler from setting up hidden camera (shot no. 138)*
  • 50 Mom embraces the kids and they get into the police car (shot no. 320)
  • 49 Mom talking about her husband and parents (shot no. 3)
  • 49 Tyler’s confession, part about father leaving (shot no. 148)
  • 48 The kids discuss sundowning and Nana’s suspicious treatment of the laptop (shot no. 118)*
  • 47 Tyler fretting over his hands being dirty (shot no. 171)*
  • 46 Pop Pop starts taking off his diapers during climax (shot no. 283)
  • 46 The kids observe the young woman arriving, then arguing with Nana and Pop Pop (shot no. 188)*
  • 43 Nana explains Pop Pop’s incontinence to Tyler (shot no. 99)*
  • 41 Becca and Nana discuss the “story” of the father leaving Becca, during Nana’s second interview (shot no. 211)
  • 41 Becca is stalked by Nana in bedroom during climax (shot no. 286)
  • 41 Tyler parodies Nana running around when sundowning, during walk outside (shot no. 144)
  • 40 The kids fight over which bed to have (shot no. 34)
  • 39 Young woman with cake arrives at house to check on grandparents (shot no. 159)**
  • 38 Becca talks to suicidal Pop Pop in the barn (shot no. 164)*
  • 38 Becca enters the cellar (shot no. 274)
  • 38 Nana speaking to the kids through kitchen window, explains having spilled something on laptop (shot no. 117)*
  • 37 Inside the kids’ room when Nana is outside with a knife (shot no. 177)
  • 36 In back seat of car with Tyler bragging (shot no. 11)*
  • 36 The kids are outside “playing” then go in for last Skype conversation (shot no. 219)*
  • 33 Becca finds a bin with photographs hidden in it (shot no. 276)
  • 32 The kids hear scraping on the door during night (shot no. 112)
  • 32 Becca is “sneaking up” on Nana with camera while the latter sits smoking (shot no. 133)*
  • 32 Becca instructs Tyler how to use “B-camera” (shot no. 47)*
  • 31 The kids on train with Mom waving goodbye outside (shot no. 13)*
  • 30 Tyler standing by the swing after arrival at grandparents’ house (shot no. 31)
  • 30 The kids look at the night’s footage, decide to leave (shot no. 184)*
  • 30 First part of Nana’s story about the pond, during second interview (shot no. 195)
  • 30 Nana stands as if paralysed, then Pop Pop takes her to her room (shot no. 275)

Split

15 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 126 seconds Kevin/Dennis tries to explain that The Beast is real to Dr. Fletcher during her visit, while camera slowly closes in on him (shot no. 744)
  • 61 The Horde discussing among themselves in mirror at the end (shot no. 1117)
  • 60 Kevin/Dennis makes himself known to Dr. Fletcher for the first time (shot no. 568)
  • 48 Casey realises the location of keys, circular camera movement (shot no. 897)**
  • 45 Casey pleads with Kevin/Hedwig to help her escape, ends with him showing her walkie-talkie (shot no. 623)
  • 39 hand-held shot of Marcia trying to escape but is caught by Kevin/Patricia (shot no. 494)
  • 37 Casey tells Kevin/Hedwig the true story of why she gets into trouble at school (shot no. 545)
  • 35 revealed that Kevin/Hedwig is spooning Casey on the bed (shot no. 509)
  • 35 Casey in police car, circular camera movement (shot no. 1108)
  • 34 close-up of Dr. Fletcher during conference call (shot no. 396)
  • 33 first shot in diner (shot no. 1119)
  • 32 parking lot scene with the three girls and the father (shot no. 14)*
  • 32 aftermath of Kevin/Dennis’s abusive attack, showing Claire and Marcia, and then close-up of Casey, before first flashback (shot no. 82)
  • 30 Dr. Fletcher recounts to Kevin/Dennis (pretending to be Kevin/Barry) the incident when girls sexually provoked him at work, while camera slowly closes in on him (shot no. 556)
  • 30 second shot in diner (shot no. 1120)

Glass

17 long takes (30 seconds or more) in descending order: (*single-shot scene, **nearly single-shot scene)

  • 107 seconds Elijah enters Kevin’s cell, interacts with various personalities: Patricia/Luke/Goddard/Hedwig (shot no. 633)*
  • 87 Hedwig’s first shot, roller-skating around the four captive girls (shot no. 43)*
  • 84 lateral tracking shot between Dr. Staple and Joseph, and back again (shot no. 280)
  • 68 Elijah is found outside his cell by the nurses (shot no. 359)*
  • 67 Daryl interacts with Kevin’s alters, first shot: Jade (shot no. 197)
  • 58 David comes home, before his vision of Audrey (shot no. 39)
  • 52 first shot of station scene, the three supporting characters watching posting going viral (shot no. 1081)
  • 50 Daryl interacts with Kevin’s alters: Ian/Mary Reynolds/Norma/Jalin (shot no. 206)
  • 48 first shot of secret society meeting, camera roving around the premises (shot no. 1039)
  • 44 Daryl interacts with Kevin’s alters: Kat/B.T./Patricia (shot no. 207)
  • 42 Elijah kills Daryl (shot no. 618)
  • 42 Inside train, where it turns out that Kevin’s father is on the same accident train as David (shot no. 885)**
  • 42 last shot of station scene and film, camera moving away from the three supporting characters, taking in television set (shot no. 1092)
  • 39 opening shot, Patricia approaching the four captive girls (shot no. 4; logos before that are counted as shots)
  • 39 Casey speaks with comic book clerk (shot no. 455)*
  • 36 first shot of scene between Dr. Staple and Elijah’s mother (shot no. 210)
  • 32 outside David’s store after he has taken care of the viral video punks (shot no. 25)*

Writings and other resources on M. Night Shyamalan

This chapter will list books, articles and other resources of interest, from a wide variety of sources.

Speeches and masterclasses:

M. Night Shyamalan addressing the class of 2018 at Drexel’s University-wide commencement ceremony on June 15 at Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia.

Masterclass with M. Night Shyamalan and James McAvoy at the Cinémathèque Francaise in Paris, January 2019, in connection with the premiere of Glass.

*

Books:

Michael Bamberger, who had full access to the preparations and shoot, has written a very interesting and nuanced account of the making of Lady in the Water, “The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale” (New York: Gotham 2006). (The paperback edition contains a new foreword by David Bordwell.)

Andrea Fontana: “M. Night Shyamalan. Filmare l’ombra dell’esistenza“, a book in Italian I have not seen, covering the films up to and including Lady in the Water.

Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock (ed.): “Critical Approaches to the Films of M. Night Shyamalan: Spoiler Warnings” (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2010).

Bernd Zywietz: “Tote Menschen Sehen“, a book in German covering Shyamalan’s life and films up to and including The Happening. Not seen by me.

There are four articles on Shyamalan’s films in the French book-format film periodical Trafic, issue no. 103 (september 2017):

  • M. Night Shyamalan : angoisse et ironie by Emmanuel Levaufre
  • Moyens de transport. Incassable de M. Night Shyamalan by Fabienne Costa
  • After Men. Phénomènes et After Earth de M. Night Shyamalan by Fernando Ganzo
  • «Nous» est un autre. Split de M. Night Shyamalan by Frédéric Majour

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Websites:

www.mnightfans.com (run by Rohan Mohmand and Paul Michael Martin)

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Articles on Shyamalan in general (or spanning several films), in career-chronological sequence:

Donato Totaro at www.offscreen.com: Visual Style in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Fantastic” Trilogy, in two parts: The Long Take and Mise en Scène, covering The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs.

Lesley Brill: M. Night Shyamalan: A Preliminary Report (2008) at www.sensesofcinema.com discusses his career up to and including Lady in the Water.

Mike Thorn: M. Night Shyamalan’s Terror Trilogy: Signs (2002), The Village (2004), and The Happening (2008) at www.brightlightsfilm.com.

A sketchy but superficially useful overview of the usage of colour in the films up to and including The Happening: Color in Film: M. Night Shyamalan.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at MUBI: What is the 21st Century?: The Modern Director, Pt. 1, briefly discussing Shyamalan’s “old-fashionedness” and absolute faith in his own cinema.

David Davidson at the blog Toronto Film Review, as a contrast to the Anglo-American reception, reports on writings on Shyamalan up to 2013 at Cahiers du Cinéma, in two articles: film-by-film reviews and overviews and career evaluations. (Plus Shyamalan mentions in Cahiers’s best of the 2000s lists.) Be forewarned, however, that proofreading seems alien to the author/translator and the translation of the French texts does not read well, making them more impenetrable than intended (one hopes).

An excellent interview by Mike Ryan for The Huffington Post: M. Night Shyamalan, ‘After Earth’ Director, On A Sequel To ‘Unbreakable’ And His Relationship With Critics  – “I am really leaning towards doing a hyper-small movie.” Also interesting stuff on his writing process, “agenda vs intention”. (Followed up later.)

This roundtable discussion at www.thevulgarcinema.com discusses his entire career from a post-After Earth perspective. (The website seems to be out of order for the moment; please contact this author for a preserved copy of this very interesting piece.)

Bilge Ebiri of the Village Voice: The Biggest Twist: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love M. Night Shyamalan in connection with the Split premiere.

This is a fairly interesting interview at the time of Split by Mike Ryan for Uproxx, following up on his interview above.

Adam Nayman of The Ringer: The Unbreakable M. Night Shyamalan, a well-written but rather facetious piece, which may serve as an example of the wide-held belief that this director is wildly erratic and hardly knows what he’s doing.

Interview by Emma Robertson of The Talks: M. Night Shyamalan: “I’m who you want in there” – on horror films and the supernatural.

Brian Hiatt of Rolling Stone: The Fall and Rise of M. Night Shyamalan in connection with the Glass premiere.

In Defense of M. Night Shyamalan – Unabridged on the M. Night Fans website, where Devon Powell, Dag Sødtholt, Gustav Roman, Rohan Mohmand, Paul Martin and Adrian Pennington answer a basic set of questions. (With some participants added, this piece is a reaction from some of the contributors to the editing, abridging and sometimes distortions in this piece by Noel Ransome of VICE: We Asked M. Night Shyamalan Fans to Defend Him.)

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Articles on Praying with Anger:

A Small Gesture” from the anonymous Lights in the Dusk blog.

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Articles on The Sixth Sense:

Adrian Martin’s insightful review on his own website of film writings.

Erlend Lavik: Narrative Structure in The Sixth Sense: A New Twist in “Twist Movies”? – part of the author’s PhD dissertation from the University of Bergen, October 2007, “Changing Narratives: Five Essays on Hollywood History“.

Coral Houtman: Questions of Unreliable Narration in The Sixth Sense (PDF), University College of Wales, Newport, Wales.

Laurence A. Rickels: Recognition Values: Seeing The Sixth Sense Again for the First Time, Other Voices v.2 n.2, March 2002.

The film is covered in Michael Walker’s 2017 book Modern Ghost Melodramas (not seen by me so far).

Scott Tobias: The Sixth Sense at 20: the smash hit that remains possible to define in The Guardian.

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Articles on Unbreakable:

The film’s cinematographer Eduardo Serra is interviewed here (but be warned that some scenes are inaccurately described).

Kyle Jonathan’s eloquent review from www.podcastingthemsoftly.com

Noel Ransome of VICE: ‘Unbreakable’ Predicted the Rise of Toxic Fandom, in connection with the release of Glass.

An interesting Q&A after a 10th-anniversary screening on the high-wire shooting of long takes and how that can create a particular energy not achieved by conventional means.

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Articles on Signs:

Stephen M. Klugewicz: Aliens . . . or Demons? Reinterpreting “Signs” and along the same lines:

Christopher Webster: Theory will make you rethink M. Night Shyamalan’s SIGNS

Andy Elijah: Signs was the reassuring escapism we needed after 9/11

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Articles on The Village:

Scout Tafoya‘s audiovisual essay on the film can be found here.

Patrick C. Collier: “Our Silly Lies”: Ideological Fictions in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village”, Journal of Narrative Theory, Vol. 38, no. 2, Summer 2008.

Michael Koresky: Twilight of the Idyll about its allegorical aspects at www.reverseshot.org.

Jeff Reichert: The Village People at www.reverseshot.org.

Emmett Booth: The Village Is a Misunderstood Parable for the Age of Trump at www.vulture.com.

Kevin Lally: It Shakes a Village: M. Night Shyamalan Conjures Creatures in the Woods (interview), Film Journal International.

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Articles on Lady in the Water:

David Bordwell has written a defence of Bamberger’s book (see above) and the film. He felt the book was misrepresented by reviewers and, although he finds faults with it, he thought the film’s extremely hostile reception inappropriate and neglectful of its qualities.

Jeff Reichert also takes the critical community’s summary executions to task in this review on www.reverseshot.org, although he is very much in two minds about the film.

IMDb user comment by ThreeSadTigers (the person behind the Lights in the Dusk blog).

Jonathan Hastings’s review on Letterboxd. (Hastings is also one of the participants in the vulgarcinema.com roundtable discussion above).

Nicole Sperling of Entertainment Weekly: M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Lady’ Love (interview).

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Articles on The Happening:

C.J. Lines: Looking back at M Night Shyamalan’s The Happening

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of the A.V. Club: Was The Happening supposed to be taken seriously?

Donato Totaro: The Happening at www.offscreen.com

Michael Koresky: The Happening at www.reverseshot.org is insightful about the film’s problems as well as about Shyamalan’s earlier films.

Richard Harland Smith: People Are Strange, an interesting attempt to make constructive sense of the incongruities of the film.

This IMDb user review is really on to something about the film’s use of blue, yellow and green.

Its science and themes of environmentalism are summed up and discussed in chapter nine (pages 167-188, try Google Books here) of the 2010 book “Homer Simpson Marches on Washington: Dissent through American Popular Culture“, edited by Timothy M. Dale and Joseph J. Foy. (Foy has written the chapter.)

This 2008 New York Times interview does not say much about the film but gives a useful snapshot of the director’s stature after Lady in the Water and before the release of The Happening and the already contracted The Last Airbender.

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Articles on The Last Airbender:

Not much critical writing on this film, but feel free to disentangle this mess: someone claiming that everything perceived to be wrong with it was not Shyamalan’s fault; someone rather convincingly arguing against the veracity of some of those claims; a rather scathing criticism of the film’s quality (typically, some of it valid, some of it thoughtless); a comparison of the contents of the film and the TV series; an estimate of what was in the alleged good half-hour removed from the original cut (search for text “deleted scenes”); a roundtable discussion where the director himself discusses the film; and an interview about the pressures of making a blockbuster and the hostile critical reception.

There is also a German-language article by Shyamalan expert Bernd Zywietz, author of this book, who is very critical of the film, but sees it in perspective with earlier works and also how it fails in a thoroughly Shyamalanian fashion.

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Articles on After Earth:

Dead But Not Yet Buried” from the anonymous Lights in the Dusk blog. This entry contains some reflections on Shyamalan’s post-After Earth stature, as a foreword to the blogger’s English translation of the French article “After Earth: N’enterrons pas trop vite M. Night Shyamalan” by Hendy Bicaise from www.vodkaster.com, which addresses Anglo-American critics’ disproportionally hostile reception of the director’s recent films. Bicaise also identifies links to previous works (but while undeniably present, I find his idea that they take place in common universe, where a thousand years into the future Shyamalan’s work has acquired mythical status, rather far-fetched).

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Articles on The Visit:

IMDb user comment by ThreeSadTigers (the person behind the Lights in the Dusk blog).

Interview by Brooks Barnes of The New York Times: With ‘The Visit,’ M. Night Shyamalan Returns to His Filmmaking Roots.

A very conscientious review at a site specialising in found-footage films:

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Articles on Split:

Joe McGovern of Entertainment Weekly: Split spoiler: M. Night Shyamalan breaks down film’s shock ending.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of the A.V. Club: Interview about “turning domestic worries into supernatural fears” and on his daughters’ influence on his writing.

Mike Thorn: Review: Genre Trauma in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” on MUBI Notebook.

Josh Hamm and Josh Cabrita: A Conversation about “Split” at www.moviemezzanine.com – simply some of the most thoughtful and passionate writing about the director I have seen, in a piece that also looks back at his entire career.

Austin Kemprowski’s review on Letterboxd, a thoughtful and well-written short piece, a good example of a case where a non-professional but knowledgeable and passionate critic is capable of a valuable contribution.

DeviantArt conducted this half-hour interview with the director. (Facebook log-in required.)

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Articles on Glass:

Adam Sternbergh of Vulture.com: In conversation: M. Night Shyamalan – The director on his failures, successes and Glass, dwelling upon his mid-period film and his way back.

Daniel Schweiger of Film Music Magazine: Interview with West Dylan Thordson, in connection with premiere of Glass.

Walter Chaw at Film Freak Central offers an impassioned political reading but the claim of “a cabal of white elites interested in maintaining the status quo at any cost” is wrong since the second meeting of the secret society proves its membership to be highly diverse, and the article’s view of comics as an agent of social change seems exaggerated. Also, “David is also a survivor who is largely incapable of communicating with his son” was valid for Unbreakable, in Glass the father-son relationship is excellent. This is a good idea, however: “It’s about gaslighting–how people in positions of power lie about plain fact until the truth becomes a political theory.”

 

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Podcasts:

On Split and Unbreakable, with Tim Fuglei and Frank Mengarelli from www.podcastingthemsoftly.com

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Metacritic reviews:

Links to the review aggregator site www.metacritic.com for the films: The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth, The Visit, Split, Glass

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Box office figures:

Links to www.boxofficemojo.com for the films: The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth, The Visit, Split, Glass

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