M. Night Shyamalan may be known for terrifying audiences with his films, but it’s sincerity that can be truly scary to some.
With his latest movie “Old” now in theaters and hitting the top spot at the box office over the weekend, Shyamalan spoke to Variety about his films, many of which contain scenes are unabashedly sincere or earnest – think of the fairy-tale style of “Lady in the Water,” bringing a comic-book hero into the real world in “Unbreakable” or the exploration of faith itself in “Signs.” Even “The Sixth Sense,” his breakthrough hit, has a loving mother-and-son relationship at its core where he asks her to trust in him and believe the impossible. “Old,” in which several people find themselves aging rapidly on a secret beach, also examines big issues about love and loss and mortality.
Of course, sincerity doesn’t always go over with cynical audience members, but that won’t deter the filmmaker.
“I think about this a lot. It’s very dangerous to say, ‘I love you.’ But you’re guaranteed to win if you say, ‘Back that ass up,’” the Oscar-nominated filmmaker told Variety. “Everyone laughs, you’re a great writer. That was funny.” But say ‘I love you,’ and Shyamalan says the response is: “You suck! This stinks, man!”
Shyamalan continues, “I think we’ve built up so many defense mechanisms that it feels childlike or naïve to be sincere.” But Shyamalan says he himself embodies those qualities, along with also being “wicked” and “super dark.” He notes, “It’s that juxtaposition of the two.”
Watch the clip of Shyamalan discussing this paradox above.