M. Night Shyamalan Breaks Down a Scene from 'Old'

'Old'Credit: Universal Pictures
Watch Shyamalan ramp up the tension. 

When you hear the name M. Night Shyamalan, you know what you're getting. The guy loves a tight genre thriller that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. His name used to be synonymous with twists, but he's transcended that to become someone who usually opens at #1, takes bold chances, and is determined to exhibit some sort of "wow" factor with every one of his titles. 

That's why I was so excited to see that he was breaking down one of the big reveals from his movie, Old. Check out this video from Vanity Fair, and let's chat after. 

M. Night Shyamalan Breaks Down a Scene from Old

I always enjoy watching episodes of "Notes on a Scene," because they take us through the intricacies of the directorial process. In this one, writer/director Shyamalan breaks down the scene where everything takes a turn for the worse in his new movie Old. The goal of this scene is a slow-building tension and suspense by juxtaposing the playful innocence of the children and their parents' uneasiness as they scour the evidence on the beach. 

Check out our full podcast interview with M. Night here:

So how does Shyamalan accomplish his goal? 

He's using techniques from all over the world. The one he starts out using is the Australian New Wave, which has realism, speed ramping, and even a combination of shots to show the family naturally at play. 

Then there's a slow burn of camera angles as we reveal a dead body washing forward. We see the body creeping behind the kid and only change angles once to make the tension begin to rise. This is in direct contrast to playfulness. Then the switch is to a handheld camera, that way you get swept into that action of the moment. People's fears begin to rise. 

I also really liked the idea that the beach was like a stage, so Shyamalan cast theater actors as well as film actors to really play with the idea that since they're not leaving this space, their unique skillsets can inform one another. That's a really outside-the-box way to think about your cast and the way they'll act. 

As fear covers everyone's faces, the tone and story change, from a fun family holiday to something more sinister and foreboding. Again, we go back into the cutting between people as they did when playing, but this time these close-ups are all about fear. 

What did you think of this breakdown? Let us know in the comments.      

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3 Comments

Easily one of the worst films I've ever seen

August 4, 2021 at 5:48AM

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Spoilers!! Not everyone’s seen Planet of the Apes, brain scientist!

August 4, 2021 at 1:14PM

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K W
504

The cinematography in Old was incredible. I wish more directors would break down their scenes as well as he does.

August 5, 2021 at 11:08AM, Edited August 5, 11:08AM

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bp
676

My favorite theatrical release in years. He broke it down so well.

August 5, 2021 at 12:45PM

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