Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has a new film thriller that taps
into contemporary fears. Mark Wahlberg and Zoey Deschanel co-star in
this tense drama of a mysterious event that could lead to the end of
human life. Alan Silverman has a look at The Happening.
school science teacher Elliot Moore (played by Mark Wahlberg) believes
in rational causes for every phenomenon; but those beliefs are tested
...and shaken ...when something begins to drive almost everyone around
him to self-destructive acts.
Is it some form of bioterrorism?
Or could it be something in nature? Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan
has explored inexplicable mysteries in his previous films including The Sixth Sense and Signs. Shyamalan says The Happening is
directly connected to today's headlines.
"I think everybody in
our generation is starting to worry about these types of things right
now: certainly in an election year, thinking about the future,"
Shyamalan says. " It is interesting with all these 'end of the world'
movies. There's an anxiety that's in the air and it mimics the ones
from the 1950's with the same kind of anxieties about our future. Where
are we headed? Are we going in the right direction? Is it too late to
"The movie is really about where we are now in
the world: the paranoia that we feel toward each other, to strangers,
to other countries ...to everything," he explains. "There's the sense
that we don't trust anybody. Really, the struggle of the movie was (the
question) 'is this an appropriate way to be?' ...the struggle of
whether to question it or not."
Wahlberg says his character is torn between his belief in science and his faith in a greater power.
think Night (Shyamalan) cast me because of my strong faith. Somebody
asked me why Elliot survived and I think it's because he has so much
faith and hope," he says.
"It can be interpreted as a
philosophical message as much as a spiritual message and that faith can
be spiritual or also a philosophy," adds Zoey Deschanel, who plays a
psychologist and the wife of Wahlberg's character.
"I think the
movie raises questions and any time you're raising questions you're
inspiring people to think about things," she says. "I think that's
really good because I definitely came out of seeing the film feeling
like I wanted to question my own beliefs."
The cast also
includes John Leguizamo. In a departure from his usual comic roles, he
plays a math teacher who is also looking for some sense of order to
explain the chaos.
"That's what I love about the screenplay,"
Leguizamo says. "There was a message that is missing in so many big
Hollywood flicks that don't have a point of view ...don't have some
visceral thing to say about the world and state of human beings and the
human condition to make us feel something. I love that the movie had a
point of view and wasn't afraid of that."
Without giving away
too much of the plot, The Happening raises the issue of environmental
damage. In this story, the inconvenient truth may be fatal to humankind
as nature rallies its forces against the polluters. Writer-director
Shyamalan says it is possible to find a spiritual element in that theme
"It is interesting that in all of our religions how
little is really said about how we should feel toward nature," he says.
" It's an interesting thing to get the hierarchy to where it is: we are
just one of many living creatures on the planet."
Like all of
Shyamalan's films, much of The Happening takes place in Eastern
Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, where the Indian-born filmmaker was
raised and still makes his home.