‘Signs’: we explain what Shyamalan’s most existentialist film is about 20 years later

M.Night Shyamalan came from directing the protégéwhich years later would become the beginning of a trilogy with Multiple Y Glass. But nobody knew that yet, perhaps not even Shyamalan himself, although he has said the opposite publicly, because what any artist says in interviews is only part of the narrative that he wants to give to his own existence, his life and the career of the.

Breakout is a superhero movie that existed before superhero movies swamped the box office, and it’s atypical, highly thought-provoking, bizarre, compelling and intensely intelligent. The public that had freaked out with The sixth Sense a year earlier, a film that became a myth already in its first weeks in theaters, faced the protégé with a little coldness because the tone was different, a little less dark.

And so, Shyamalan appeared with signs. A tape that announced the director’s return to terror, who this time replaces the ghosts with aliens and Bruce Willis with Mel Gibson. signs it was a success with the public and also with critics, it was a film with imperfections but enjoyable, intense and full of meanings, so many meanings that it is impossible to tackle them in a single viewing. signs you have to repeat it a few times. Perhaps that is why 20 years later it is still so impressive to approach her.

What is ‘Signals’ really about?

A scene from ‘Signs’

signs It’s an alien invasion. It all begins one morning when Graham Hess, a former Protestant pastor who lives with his two children and his former baseball star brother, makes an incredible discovery in the cornfields surrounding his farm, some huge signs that do not correspond to no language on Earth are inexplicably embodied in the middle of its terrain.

But signs It is also the story of a guy who loses faith when a fortuitous car accident takes his wife away from him. Graham Hess deals with that pain by abandoning his figure as a shepherd while he takes care of his two children and his brother.

In signs there is also a film where a guy emptied by pain needs to recompose himself to survive by embracing again the virtues that one day he abandoned. These virtues are represented by each member of his family in one of the most exciting sets of metaphors in the director’s entire filmography.

And of course signs It may have nothing to do with the signs that the threatening alien race leaves in the fields of crops around the globe. Signs can be the title of a movie where we are told that life and the world are full of meanings, of signs that we can interpret or not. The basic concept would be that everything happens for a reason.

Life puts us to the test and from there we extract the tools we need to face our destiny in the event that we believe that there is such a thing. Either that or simply everything is coincidence and fortuitous events from which we ourselves extract the teachings to continue living, so that things continue to happen to us.

The aliens

The terrifying element of the film is the aliens. And the planning you do Shyamalan of how to show the threat and how to provoke fear in the viewer is exquisite. The director, greatly influenced by hitchcock Y Spielberg, focuses on suggesting teaching the creature as little as possible. He uses staging and sound to fill each scene with tension and in this way when the creatures appear the impact is exponential.

Many have not yet recovered from this scare.

Shyamalan tells us the story of Graham’s family through an alien invasion without showing us either the aliens or what happens beyond that Victorian house, built for the film, in the middle of a farm.

The basement sequence

The film is full of visual discoveries, a masterful staging, revealing dialogues, but without a doubt there is a sequence where absolutely everything is, where Shyamalan demonstrates his genius, in which the actors develop their characters, where each thing, each gesture, each object is very important and where the story reaches its climax. This scene is the one in the basement.

Shyamalan It is proposed in this sequence to stage very important events in the story, which will make it advance to the final twist, in a confined space, in the dark and with four characters. He does it with a brutal narrative intensity and uses metaphors, flashlights and ellipses.

The flashlight goes from hand to hand and mark the action of the sequence. The flashlight was aimed at Graham jamming the door, at Merryl piling up the sacks, at little Morgan being attacked by an alien’s arm, or at sweet Bo hiding among old furniture. Each time it is a character who points the flashlight at another character who does or suffers an action. It is a very elegant choreography, disturbing and full of suspense.

It is in this sequence that it is best explained how a broken Graham begins to believe again. He reveals for the first time that he never stopped believing, that he was just mad at God for having taken his wife from him. It is in this sequence where the protagonist recovers his strength, represented by Merryl throughout the film, his intelligence that was always his eldest son, the only one who decides to read a book about alien invasions or use the baby monitor to listen to the aliens and also her goodness, which of course is little Bo.

And the ellipses marked by the lights of the flashlight that turn on and off are the ones that underpin the arc of the characters, their evolution and the evolution of the events towards that end twist.

The signs of ‘Signs’

A scene from 'Signs'
A scene from ‘Signs’

Signs from aliens or signs from destiny? Basically, it is a very simple dichotomy: destiny vs. Coincidences.

It doesn’t matter which part you are on as a spectator because the film holds for either of the two theses. Let’s look at the signs:

The doors. In the first scene of the film Graham jumps up from a scream, his daughter’s door is closed and he doesn’t open it. In the last scene the house has all the doors open. Thus throughout the film the doors are a constant symbol of what happens to the characters. Not only the doors, but also the frames, the frames that the director achieves through them are part of the staging and if one is very attentive, the doors also give clues to what will happen later.

The circles. There are circles on the signs left by the aliens and circles surrounding the characters throughout the film. Circles on the windows of the bookstore, circles on the windows, on the decorations of the house, on the baby monitor…

Water. The most obvious, of course. Bo, from an innocent intuition or by chance or simply because of something magical, begins to hate water, it tastes bad to him, and he embraces the habit of leaving half glasses throughout the house. That will save the life of his brother since in the end it is discovered that the water is lethal to the aliens, it burns them. And here comes one of the million questions that could be considered a tremendous plot hole:

How is it possible that some aliens who die in contact with water decide to invade a planet composed mostly of that element? The answer is just as silly as the question: The aliens simply did not know that this element was lethal to them.

To which the viewer may wonder how a supposedly intelligent race invades a planet without knowing its conditions. But that also has a very simple answer: Who tells us that the alien races throughout the universe are smarter than us or just smart?

In any case, Shyamalan doesn’t really care about this script hole. because he wants to tell something else.

A scene from 'Signs'
A scene from ‘Signs’

Before dying and completely trapped between a tree and a car, Graham’s wife says a phrase to him that doesn’t seem to make much sense: “Look and tell Merrill to hit hard”. But at the end of the film, when the whole family comes out of the basement, an alien has taken Morgan and threatens to inject him with a toxic gas. At that moment Graham remembers his wife’s phrase and looks around until he sees the bat hanging on the wall, right next to Merrill. He tells his brother to look and hit hard and he does just that, hitting the alien from which a glass of water spills, all witnessing his weak point.

Is that phrase the one that marks Graham’s destiny? Or is Graham the one who marks his own destiny based on the phrase of his wife?

Signals is a perfect film because the story it develops and the way it does it offers an idea, a vital and precious stimulus to any viewer.

If you believe in destiny, you will believe that Graham’s wife said that phrase to him to use at that moment, that Bo left the glasses of water scattered throughout the house because his destiny was to help save the life of his brother, that Merrill gave up his baseball career to continue living with his brother and nephews until that day when he hits the biggest hit of all and Morgan had an asthma attack just before the alien injects him with the poison gas to kill him. do not swallow it

If you don’t believe in destiny, signs It is a film about the ability of human beings to take advantage of every vital fact, to use it to grow and to survive. Graham’s wife’s phrase could have meant many other things but he used it at the right time, Mogan did not succeed in baseball but he did manage to save his nephew’s life, Bo has a strange mania with water perhaps because she too he is grieving himself, and Morgan has asthma, what can kill you can also save you.

The real thesis signs, what this movie is about, what Shyamalan wants to tell us in such a funny way is that the world is made for us, and things happen to us because we live and whatever happens is the way we deal with it what defines us, whether or not we are people of faith. Only we can decide what to do with the signals.

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‘Signs’: we explain what Shyamalan’s most existentialist film is about 20 years later