What if an alien in the future stumbled upon M. Night Shyamalan’s Split? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Stars: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Production Co: Blinding Edge Pictures, Blumhouse Productions
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
Split’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Split, directed by M. Night Shamwow, who himself is “split” into two different people: a competent director and one of the shittiest directors of all time.
The film opens on a human male named Dennis kidnapping three adolescent girls, two of whom are popular and conventionally attractive and one of whom is a loser but is also conventionally attractive. Only it just so happens that Dennis isn’t Dennis at all. He’s Kevin, and Kevin has 23 personalities, one of whom is Dennis, and none of whom are Kevin. Got it? Too late, we’re moving on.
Once the girls are all good and kidnapped, they meet some of the other personalities, such as Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor and Hedwig, a nine-year-old snowy owl. Hedwig reveals to them that they will be sacrificed to a secret, even more powerful 24th personality called The Beast. Casey, the outcast girl, tries to find a window so she can ride Hedwig’s feathery wings to freedom, but he’s too young to get the reference.
Dennis goes undercover pretending to be a personality named Barry — which on Earth was always short for Barack — but his therapist Dr. Fletcher senses something awry and demands to see his long form birth certificate. This seems as good a time as any to turn into The Beast, so that’s exactly what happens. Then The Beast turns into Spiderman and kills Dr. Fletcher. Old Spidey is just about to polish off a couple of flies when out of nowhere Casey starts shooting him just to be mean. The Beast doesn’t take it personally though, and spares her life on account of her chill body art.
Elsewhere, Dennis, Sinead, and Hedwig flap their gabs about what a beauty The Beast is and how jazzed they are for the sequel. Actually, make that the threequel, because this movie is already a sequel, because apparently the guy from Unbreakable has been watching it on TV the whole time. Hold onto your fucking nips, it’s a retroactive cinematic universe!
The themes of Split center around the human psyche, a delicate and ultimately pointless mutation. The film is set mostly in an underground labyrinth, which reflects the subconscious — just as the girls are trapped in the basement, so too are they trapped by the whims of Kevin’s freshly buffed chrome dome.
The motif of windows suggests an ability to move between various states of mind, much in the same way Microsoft Windows allowed Earthlings to move from error messages to porn and back to error messages. Kevin’s personalities learn to create their own window through which they can access control of Kevin’s body and impressively diverse wardrobe. Casey seeks a window as a means to exit the shadow of her abusive home life.
Specifically, Split examines the condition of suffering, which I guess is what happens when your body doesn’t naturally synthesize euphorium, if you can imagine that. While the title most obviously reflects Kevin’s goofed-up noggin, it also alludes to the idea of post-traumatic growth. The film posits that those who have experienced trauma are stronger, and perhaps even further evolved, than the dirty neanderthals who have not. This hypothesis reflects Friedrich Nietzsche’s axiom: “Out of life’s school of war, what does not destroy me, makes me stronger,” a sentiment later echoed by philosopher Kelly Clarkson. This idea is embodied literally in Kevin, whose traumatic childhood first triggered his multiple personality disorder, and ultimately leads him to become bulletproof, like philosopher 50 Cent.
Casey manifests this concept more subtly — you know, the way losers do. At the end of the film, The Beast spares Casey because he can tell she has suffered. But from the beginning, Casey’s trauma translates into experience that helps her endure the horror of her forced sabbatical. While Claire and Marcia are terrified and act basic as hell, Casey is level-headed and better able to communicate with Kevin’s personalities. And communication is important in all relationships, even psychotic ones — just take my ex-wife. Please! Take her as an example!
Indeed, while The Beast is physically stronger than Casey, the film makes the point that Casey’s emotional resilience is the real MVP. The Beast may be able to climb walls and shoot webbing from his wrists, but he’s an amoral creature who devours young girls without even cooking them, no better than Casey’s monstrous uncle or the animals in the zoo. The ending implies that rather than breaking her down further, Casey’s recent trauma has allowed her to find an elevated emotional state. In contrast to her failure to defend herself as a child, she is able to shoot The Beast when he attacks her, a nice victory that ultimately accomplishes nothing. And once she is rescued, the film suggests she can finally break free from the abusive patterns of her past. Right? I think that’s what that look on her face means. Or maybe she’s just sleepy. Who cares, at least it’s not that movie with the killer plants.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Rejoice!