A beach where time flies, a fatal trap which closes on a dozen tourists, now destitute and condemned: OLD had everything of a solid outsider able to interfere in the avalanche of seasonal blockbusters. If the film is frustrating, it nonetheless remains a solid “Shyamalanesque” subtext. Explanations.
M. Night Shyamalan had not given any sign of life since his existential soliloquies on the hero and his role in fiction. Snubbed the nose at an industry that deifies every stone in the MCU edifice, Glass brilliantly concluded a reflection on contemporary entertainment that began 20 years earlier, fed unequally by a number of unequal narratives (no need to try to explain the insane heterogeneity that characterizes the filmography of this indistinguishable author). So happens OLD, crazy and risky project, adapted from a French comic strip, the story of a family imprisoned on a beach where time accelerates at a frantic pace. The subterfuge, unveiled from the exhibition scenes, lets fear the worst, a premonition that will prove to be correct: the story never avoids obvious pitfalls and runs one by one the tracks of any autonomous horror story. .
No quirky plea towards an author that we particularly like here. The narrative errors and the dubious epilogue, just like certain actors who came to sunbathe, cannot be excused. We often regret the pragmatic efficiency and tasty twists of The Visit, this ease with which Shyamalan succeeded in probing the psyche of tormented figures, confronted with hazards generated by an overflowing imagination. What amazes in OLD, it is above all the absence of empathy towards those who are subject to the law of stones. From the family on the verge of implosion to the artificial and quirky couple, the writing of the characters is in no way reflected and finds no echo thereafter. The director points this out when Trent and his friend ask all the inhabitants of the hotel what their profession is: none of them arouse astonishment or stand out, on the contrary. In reality, Shyamalan uses this chessboard to dispose of the already well-known pawns of the contemporary fictional landscape: a heroic doctor, a drift of the Instagram generation, a falsely mystical epileptic or a gifted person who realizes following the disaster that he had the key to the intrigue in front of his eyes … How not to be surprised when you know the rigor with which Shyamalan think his characters as keys to the plot and the thriller?
Since then, OLD more akin to satire concealed beneath the lean contours of horrific entertainment. The imperfection of all the characters stands out. Their common point, a disease that can be treated thanks to the properties of the beach, is an allegory of another form of contamination. Heirs and victims of the excesses of contemporary fiction, all are in reality subject to purgatory designed by Shyamalan himself (It is besides the character that he himself interprets who observes them disappear one by one from the top of the mountain.) The absurdity with which each gives in to vice or succumbs completes the ridiculing of these stereotypical figures, blocked in front of the cameras . What a pleasure to escape, thanks to a beautiful use of subjective vision, the emptiness of the reflections that everyone shouts …
This refusal of any form of heroism worthy of compassion, this refusal of the epic (we must see how quickly the saving escalation falls into the water) and this lack of dramatic depth finds a preponderant repercussion in the epilogue, Reflection of an unequivocal observation: there is nothing more to remove from this type of story sanded to the bone and it is necessary to heal the wounds of a battered genre cinema. By opting for a quasi-meta reflection, Shyamalan appropriates the workings of what he repudiates in order to draw up a subtle caricature of it. The result, admittedly uneven, fascinates and suggests an unprecedented tone, also unfinished, in the way in which the fictional apologue can be thought of. The excellent Karim Debbache explained in an episode of Chroma how much you had to be wary of appearances in Signs, by decanting the clues of a potential reverse narrative. Just think OLD as a non-isolated support, a diachronic object in the filmography of Shyamalan to assume a real cheerful and daring subtext. The final low angle view towards the ocean and the gradual escape from the beach complete our distance from the monsters of a purgatory that we imagine as a transition to other skies for one of the most enigmatic directors of our century. .