“The Happening”: Meaning in the Mess

The Happening

My friend would argue that there is no meaning in The Happening. But a lot of people are stumbling over my little blog looking for the meaning. They want to know JM! (You can also check out my later post in which I talk about the boldness of directors like Shyamalan, and I continue to do some dissecting of this film.)

The reasoning for the events are given to us in the first ten minutes of the movie and repeated again later. The talk of the bees becomes a larger metaphor for the reaction of the foliage. The reason is…unexplainable. An act of nature. Sure people can point fingers, but they’re all just guessing. In many ways this movie is the same thing; we can guess and assume what Shyamalan is up to or why he chose to tell this story in this fashion, but when it comes down to it, none of us will ever really know.

Now, what it seems like he’s up to…in basic terms, he’s telling us to go green. To take care of our environment. And not so much that it will strike back, as it does in the movie, but the idea is that by destroying our environment…we’re killing ourselves. That’s how it works.

The movie goes through a lot of diversions to get to this point and the violence perhaps parallels the violence that we’re doing to the world around us…perhaps. The old lady…I still have no idea! Maybe she’s analogous to the types of people that are living blindly and ignoring the fact that our environment is falling to pieces (according to Shyamalan). And they get angry whenever you try to tell them otherwise. Real angry. The doll…still no idea.

This is one way to look at it…though I doubt that there are many other ways.

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11 Responses to ““The Happening”: Meaning in the Mess”

  1. liz Says:

    i like your reasoning. movie makes so much more sense now.

  2. carlos Says:

    The meaning is obvious, the execution (no pun) is beyond poor. The dialogue was… I can’t think of any other word than just plain horrible. Thank God I had to see this for work… and you know it’s bad when even the execs of the studio themselves say they “fucking hate” this movie.

  3. Phillip Says:

    My search for meaning was based more on the fact that I couldn’t believe the movie was so simple. He’s an intelligent filmmaker. For a movie to be so surface and unimportant…you can’t believe that it’s so much or little of each.

    I went back to see “Batman and Robin” 3 times at the movie theatre because I couldn’t believe a Batman movie could be that bad. Same thing here.

  4. Philip Says:

    I just finished watching this movie. It left me confused as many others I will assume. I agree with the “going green” premise. I would also like to add that the old lady was not only choosing to ignore what was going on around her but was also angry that people were coming into her life, disrupting her set ways and she felt threatened by it, which led her to basically go crazy because that change that she had disconnected herself from and ignored had caught up to her. Seems weird though, you did briefly see a picture of her and her husband…. as if to say at one time she was sane. Also, when she slapped jess’ hand she said, “Don’t take what isn’t yours”. I will have to watch this movie again… I have finally been dumbfounded. I thought Lady in the Water was bad.

  5. George Villacis Says:

    Ya thats what i think but it still dosent make sense.What about the old guy who had an idea on the plants.If it wasent on the group of people then what was.My father said it might have been on the emotions of love on the enviroment but i think that they survived because they were immune.

  6. Phillip Says:

    George, well, I don’t know. There’s a phrase in film, “mise en scene” (meez on sen), with a couple dashes over letters and such as it’s French. What this word entails is basically creating mood in the shots by using lighting or wind effects or colors that invoke emotions and themes or a mystery. Part of Shyamalan’s goal, I think, was to leave things unexplained. To have the attack just end, without a reason, which I imagine in his mind would have lent to the mystery of the situation and in turn would have made everything that happened more unsettling. But he sort of undoes this by hammering over our head what “most likely” happened in the news report at the end. It the end it’s sloppy storytelling. Yes he makes a point of saying that the plant life is attacking out of revenge or self preservation, but he never shows people hurting the environment, and there doesn’t seem to be a method to who dies and who doesn’t. It makes it less “mysterious” and more convoluted.

  7. Bryant Says:

    Hey guys and gals, I also just finished this movie and loved it. I work in the film and game industry and have chosen to appreciate films rather than disect them, and in the case of Shyamalan, other’s storytelling abilities. You need to see his work as a series of stories not the whole gambit of what we consider to be a great flick.

    The owner of this blog is right, this has a “go-green” agenda and that’s cool, I like it. The Old Lady, lives in seclusion, perhaps lost her husband in a war, and pretty pissed off about it … enough to slap the little girls hand, enough to make sharp remarks to them about HAVING to be hospitable to them, etc. She also makes the remark about being killed by the three while she was sleeping before they all want to bed. The doll, in my opinion was a weak attempt to “fool” the burglar/killer into thinking it was her while she watched behind with a bat or something. Whalberg comes walking in and bam she thinks he’s coming in to kill her.

    She becomes irate, angry, possibly irrational and runs outside. Now flash to the botonist/nursery keeper mentioning that plants can sense things/respond to people/the concept of energy. This woman was giving off a very negative energy = threat to the plants = old lady dead.

    Along that line of thought, Whalberg mentioning he didn’t want to be without his wife and little girl if they didn’t want to die was driven by thoughts/motives of love and likewise for the other two (maybe something we could lend to the earth wouldn’t you say???). Them walking out in the wind with only the desire to be with one another is a completely different energy signature which apparently was not threatening to the plants.

    My explaination could be crazy but it makes sense to me. Much reference to mood ring, etc. Overall I loved the movie and I have liked every movie he has come out with because honestly he may not be up on all of the latest CG tricks and implementation and to be honest he’s a bit more than that because being is a position of writer/director/producer means what you are creating is soley up to you and he does just that, creating movies that are really short stories. I say rock on Shyamalan, keep em coming.

  8. dave Says:

    I was pleasantly surprised by the Happening… After seeing Lady in the Water and not being impressed i expected a mediocre movie. But i thought it was very entertaining… it had a clear and obvious message about taking care of the environment as well as how we treat eachother as people. It touched on some other things like terrorism and fear and although Shamalan doesnt explain things explicitly, i think thats where the strength of this movie lies… The only thing that doesnt feel right is the Old Lady. Im still trying to figure out what she symbolizes and what the point of that scene is…

  9. Cary Cuevas Says:

    Wowww!!!! I don’t know what that was…. but there was alot of grass….
    Kinda had a safari feel to it like …” There comes the lion…out of the bushes to come scare us “..director certainly is original for his in movies …. Mostly leaves me with a ” huh?”

  10. DavidInSYdney Says:

    I totally agree with Bryant!!! I went to write the same theory because i thought people were missing that point, but after reading Bryants post i could not put it into better words. Well done!! To the people who missed the whole point of the movie, it makes me very sad to think that there are so many ignorant people in this world and if this does not change we are in for a very similar fate to what the movie portrays.

  11. Nathan Says:

    I had watched this movie a couple of times now, and the “go-green” is definitely one of the messages implied on this movie. In my opinion, the Old Lady represents Mother Earth, which as a whole accepts us in her care without questions… let’s say “she is obliged to do so”. When the Old Lady invited Mark for dinner and to stay at night resembles caring for human kind and providing us with our needs. The phrase “I grow my own food”, proves it. When she went “crazy” on some point of the movie symbolizes Mother Earth being angry for us messing her up, ie. stealing my stuff, wanting to kill me while I am a sleep etc.

    What really catches me most is the brilliant execution of the plant/toxin plot. Really made me think twice when looking at plants and trees right now. I mean, as explained on the latter parts of the movie, it’s like Red Tide, algae to fishes, plants to man or thread eradication.

    Also, when we think of it, killing one’s self is the most inhuman/unthinkable scenarios in human history. Since plants can’t grab us and eat human alive, they release toxins in the air to trigger suicidal actions. Natures revenge maybe.

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