SHYAMALAN MAKES A COMEBACK WITH THE MOVIE SPLIT
BY SOKHNA FALL, 17'
We have all waited nearly ten years for this moment. The moment when even the haters turn into believers, with the comeback of one of the most talented filmmakers of our generation: M Night Shyamalan. After directing a series of films like After Earth and The Visit that received progressively and significantly worse reviews and distaste from audiences, the streak of Shyamalan’s disappointing movie fails finally ended in January 2017 with the release of the new psychological thriller known as Split. The film follows a man with 23 different personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls.
The screenplay is based on Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct and enduring personalities, alternating a person’s behavior, accompanied by forgetfulness, resulting in the loss of important information. While the mental divisions of those with dissociative identity disorder have long fascinated and eluded science, it is believed that some can also manifest unique physical attributes for each personality, a subconscious imaginative prism within a single being.
The story wastes no time getting started. Three teengers, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula), and outsider Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), are kidnapped and held captive by “Dennis”, one of the 23 personalities present in the mind of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a victim of childhood abuse diagnosed with DID. In this world, Dissociative Identity Disorder doesn’t just lead to a psychological change, but also a physical one. Kevin is able to actually alter his body with each switch, meaning some personalities, for example, can have OCD and need glasses, while others need insulin shots. Who Kevin is in any given moment depends on who has stepped into “the light” in his mind, something typically controlled by the personality known as Barry.
In the movie itself, the core personalities we meet are Dennis, Patricia, Hedwig, and Barry. The former two – who call themselves the Horde – are the darker sides of Kevin; they have previously been suppressed by Barry while the latter break out by manipulating the childlike Hedwig, who is able to take control of light at will. While this is Kevin’s body, his personality doesn’t seem complicit in either side of this – when he finally does emerge, he begs to be killed, revealing that even though Barry and others within him are good guys, they’re still going against the original personality’s will. The Horde’s plan is to unleash “the Beast”, believed to be a mythical 24th personality in Kevin’s psyche.
Split has earned over 193.1 million USD at the box office, with thousands of fans taking to Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media outlets to discuss its controversial ending. However, many viewers argue that the film depicts a backward representation of mental illness, portraying those with DID as violent and aggressive. Nevertheless, Split remains one of the most triumphant motion pictures of early 2017, and is the definite cinematic comeback of renowned film producer M Night Shyamalan.