大海带来新生,也带来变化 ——《老去》影评

在这个大部分高概念恐怖片(高概念:high-concept,透过大型的预算、鲜明清晰的剧情结构以及不断行销宣传以及众多周边商品的推动,来造就票房的电影生产策略——译者注)及科幻电影纷纷转移到电视领域的时代(参见《黑镜》), 奈特·沙马兰(Night Shyamalan)在院线上映其最新电影的想法,让人感觉十分老派。



本片开场便聚焦于一个小家庭中的夫妻盖伊(Guy)和普丽丝卡(Prisca),夫妻二人分别由盖尔·加西亚·贝纳尔(Gael García Bernal)和薇姬·克里普斯(Vicky Krieps)饰演。两口子带着一双儿女,正“逃”往一个对一家人来说都宛如天堂的(paradisiac)地方。


当他们到达了这个好到令人难以置信的度假胜地时(克里普斯此时贡献了片中众多无比生硬台词中的其中一句:“我简直不敢相信我在网上找到了这个地方!(I can’t believe I found this online!)”),我们开始结识片中其他角色,比如脸上带着电视主播般怪异微笑的酒店经理,以及其他完全符合刻板印象(stereotypepical)的度假者:外科医生和他的战利品般的老婆、年迈的母亲,以及一位癫痫女患者(好吧,最后一位比较不同寻常)。

(Night Shyamalan)



接下来是影片的核心部分。 在不过多剧透的情况下,可以总结如下:所有角色都开始加速衰老。年长者首当其冲,例如外科医生的母亲;孩子们则迅速地开始成熟,留给他们的时间也最多。





奈特·沙马兰可能不是一个说故事大师(master storyteller),他当前也很可能被更现代的恐怖片导演(比如罗伯特·艾格斯Robert Eggers或阿里·艾斯特Ari Aster)所超越,因为后者们的电影肯定更有力量。不过面对早年得志和过高期望这两个对电影从业者来说最大的陷阱,沙马兰还是幸存下来。现在他回来了,他的制作成本更加低廉、电影制作更加谦虚,而且他并不只是一个“网飞导演”。在《老去》背后,有他真实的声音和匠心工艺(craft)。





贝尔纳多·莱特(Bernardo Leyte),常驻巴黎的电影制作人。 他在西班牙、德国和英国长大,毕业于伦敦电影学院,目前担任导演。 他是一位充满热情的影迷,他所观看的电影囊括各种类型,从他的偶像斯坦利·库布里克(Stanley Kubrick)和安德烈·塔可夫斯基(Andrei Tarkovsky)的電影,到超级英雄、恐怖片、动漫等。 


In a time where high-concept horror and science-fiction ideas have mostly moved over to the realm of television (see:Black Mirror), the idea of a theatrical release for M. Night Shyamalan’s newest film, felt, well… old-fashioned. This is a small movie that, on the surface, looks like it belongs on the virtual shelves of a streaming supermarket such as Netflix, the living quarters for most genre B-movies movies of today.

However, the apparent slightness of Old doesn’t fully define a film that may be small and low budget (18.5 m USD), yes, but at the same managed to hit a nerve as I was viewing it on the big screen.

Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps are Guy and Prisca, the central couple of the nuclear family that Old opens with: they are a man and a woman, with their son and daughter in tow. They are all on their way to a paradisiac getaway for the whole family; the idea of “getaway” is important, as the clearly unhappy couple seems to be running from their problems back home and barely holding it together for the kids. It is unclear whether infidelity, health, or something else is driving them apart.

 Once they get to the too-good-to-be-true resort (one of the many lines of stilted dialogue delivered by Krieps goes “I can’t believe I found this online!”), we get to know a cast of surrounding characters, from the uncanny TV-presenter smiles of the hotel management to the array of stereotypical holiday-goers: the surgeon and his trophy wife, the old mother, the woman with epilepsy-fits (ok, that last one is rather unusual).

Shyamalan’s style is, indeed, unusual. The dialogue is, simply put, bad. Some of the cinematography is inspired while other choices are strange; there is a recurrent stylistic device by which the director chooses to frame people and faces around the outer edges of the screen and keeps the viewer’s focus on the sky or the horizon, as if the camera was getting distracted and peering beyond the insignificance of the main characters. Though it is hard to know whether it is all intentional, it certainly contributes to the feeling of unease conveyed from the very opening of the film. Something already feels very wrong as the cast of characters is driven to a special beach (“for some guests only”, says the creepy manager) by none other than Shyamalan himself, in one of his better on-screen roles.

Things change when Guy, Prisca, their children and a few other selected couples and families arrive at the remote beach. True, the sand is white and the water is turquoise, but they must go through a sharp canyon to get to it, and the high, jagged cliffs which surround it make it visually oppressive. The van driver played by Shyamalan insists that they take an inordinate amount of food supplies, even though they’re going to stay only for a few hours. There is no phone reception. Nothing bad happens at first, but the pieces are on the chessboard and, as a viewer, you can sense a trap.

What follows is the core of the film; without spoiling more than the overall premise, suffice it to say that all of the characters start experiencing highly accelerated ageing. Older people such as the surgeon’s mother are the first in line, while the children, advancing quickly towards maturity, seem destined to last the longest.

Interestingly, Shyamalan doesn’t seem to be sure what any of it means; at first, Old’s thrills are based on the physical effects of ageing too rapidly (tumours growing too quickly or puberty hitting too fast), but when the film really gets interesting is when the malady becomes metaphor and starts to reflect on the real horror film we all live in as human beings: we are all hurtling towards death at an accelerated rate, getting old faster than we would like. As day turns to night on the cursed beach, the director manages to hit the right notes and extricate real moments of empathy and pathos out of the relationship between Guy and Prisca, as their union also nears its twilight. The student movie dialogue gives way to a handful of poignant scenes with real acting. By the time I saw the director looking at the beach through a camera lens, an all powerful voyeur watching over the microcosm of life and death he himself created, I was fully onboard with Old.

M. Night Shyamalan may not be a master storyteller, and he may currently be eclipsed by more modern horror directors such as Robert Eggers or Ari Aster, whose films are certainly more muscular, but he survived one of the biggest traps a filmmaker can be thrown into; early success and sky-high expectations. Now that he is back, his filmmaking is cheaper and more humble, but he’s no “Netflix director”. There is a real voice behind Old, and real craft. The setting of the film itself is brilliant: a beach is a frontier between worlds. Going to the beach means, to some extent, reaching the end, as there is nowhere else to go. Just like climbing a mountain could be seen as a futile attempt at getting closer to one’s god, going to the beach is an acceptance of the threshold, of mortality. Swimming out to sea could bring about a new rebirth, but with it comes change nonetheless. Sometimes, the best thing to do is sit down, build a sandcastle, and watch the sun set.