It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
I attended the world premiere of Paul Cox's "The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky" in September 2001 at the Toronto Film Festival. It was not a serene event. The film started very late, some audience members found it difficult, and there were walk-outs and even audible complaints. Cox took the microphone afterward to castigate those who had left (and could therefore not hear him) and to explain passionately why he had made the film.
His comments came down to: Art defends the final battlements against ignorance and violence. When he read the diaries, he said, "it was the first time I had read something somebody had written not out of his head but out of his heart." And to those who had stayed, in an oblique reference to mainstream commercial cinema: "At least when you walk out of the door you have not become a more disgusting human being." The screening was held a few days after 9/11, there was borderline hysteria in the air, and the film's own examination of insanity was no doubt more disturbing than it might have been. Nor is it an easy film. I recall a conversation at the Sundance Film Festival with Ken Turan of the Los Angeles Times. He asked me about another difficult film.
"Well," I said, "it's the kind of movie it takes an experienced observer to appreciate. Someone who has seen a lot of movies and thought deeply about them." "Someone like us," Turan said.
"Exactly. The average viewer is going to be incapable of accepting it as only what it is." Pure snobbery, with our tongues in cheek, and yet not without merit. "The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky" is not a biography of the great dancer, or a dramatic reenactment of events in his life, but pure cinema in an experimental form, anchored by the voice of Derek Jacobi reading from the diaries. The images sometimes represent episodes in Nijinsky's life, sometimes symbolize them obliquely, sometimes represent images in his mind, sometimes simply want to evoke his state of mind. The music by Paul Grabowsky, Cox's longtime collaborator, is similarly motivated.