It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The films of Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky are more like environments than entertainments. It's often said they're too long, but that's missing the point: He uses length and depth to slow us down, to edge us out of the velocity of our lives, to enter a zone of reverie and meditation. When he allows a sequence to continue for what seems like an unreasonable length, we have a choice. We can be bored, or we can use the interlude as an opportunity to consolidate what has gone before, and process it in terms of our own reflections.
At Telluride in 1983, when Tarkovsky (1932-1986) was honored and his "Nostalgia" had its North American premiere, there were long talks afterwards under the stars. We argued about a sequence in which the film's hero stands in an abandoned swimming pool and lights a candle and attempts to walk back and forth without the candle going out. When he fails, he tries again. During the movie there was audible restlessness in the audience, and some found the scene merely silly. Others found themselves thinking of times in their own lives where some arbitrary action, endlessly repeated, was like a bet with fate: If I can do this, it means I will get my wish.
Tarkovsky at that festival was given the Telluride Medal and then stalked to the edge of the stage, a fierce mustached figure in jeans and cowboy boots, to angrily say (in words translated by the gentle Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi): "The cinema, she is a whore. First she charge a nickel, now she charge five dollars. When she learns to give it away, she will be free," (The next night, the actor Richard Widmark, also honored, replied: "I want to name you some pimps. Hitchcock ... Fellini ... Bergman ... Orson Welles ...")
Tarkovsky's brief manifesto was nevertheless of value as an insight into his approach to filmmaking. His later films are uncompromised meditations on human nature and the purpose of existence, and they have a profound undercurrent of spirituality--enough to get him into trouble with the Soviet authorities, who cut, criticized and embargoed his films, and eventually drove him into exile. He consciously embodied the idea of a Great Filmmaker, making works that were uncompromisingly serious and ambitious, with no regard whatever for audience tastes or box office success.