The idea of having multiple personalities has been more than overused in the movies and even books, however, the recently released film from one of my favorite directors, M. Night Shyamalan, has used it in an innovative, dark, and enchanting way. Split shows that the presence of superpowers in a story, in a Marvel or DC context, doesn’t mean that it has to be a story intended for children.
Shyamalan opens the story presenting the first three characters, three common students that, suddenly, are kidnapped by a man. They fell unconscious and wake up in a completely secured room. That premier is not new and won’t surprise anyone at first sight. The wild card in this movie is that the man, amazingly portrayed by James McAvoy, deals with dissociative identity disorder, making him have 23 different personalities, all of them unique, creepy, and somewhat beautiful, giving the viewer a unique perspective on what’s happening on the screen.
Dennis who is a cleaning obsessed, Hedwig a funny nine year old boy, and Patricia a dark and homely woman, are the three more relevant faces we will see in Split, while one of the girls, Casey Cook, incarnated by Anya Taylor-Joy, tries to find a way to be saved from a dangerous and wild new personality about to be born by recalling her tormenting past.
Split, besides exploring how humans react to situations of extreme danger in a realistic way, also explores an interesting theory: our brain’s chemistry can alter and change our bodies, muscles, and even our minds. Every single one of the personalities that McAvoy presents has different behaviors, skills, attitudes, and even health standards.
What are we capable of when we find ourselves trapped as scapegoats, mere sacrifices for something or someone else’s plans? Shyamalan makes sure that Split answers this question, and also presents an intriguing idea: how can we define who are pure and who are not? Is our past really a major aspect in ourselves and our souls?
People often say we are what we’ve done, do, and will do, but in this movie, the past seems to have a more leading role, it is highlighted as you’ve never seen before. It is suffering and badly healed wounds which can condemn or saves us, depending on how we use them.
Those same people say that self-harming is a more severe condemn that deserves a more severe punishment, a sin like no other, and that it won’t do any good for us or anyone else. Split plays with that moral standard, making it unconformable to see that not everything has been said about that polemic topic.
The final message we get from this social film, disguised as a dark fantasy horror story, is that when light cannot win, it’s time for darkness to fight instead. The result may be unpredictable and hard to foresee, but we could have a higher chance of survival than being a passive performer of our acts and leaving everything in fate’s hands.
If anyone has gone through hard times, that person will understand that way of thinking, they will understand that passivity can kill. When we feel half dead, on the edge between the light and an abyss off which we’re about to fall, using darkness as a tool will allow us to work toward a calm after the storm. We can work through a slow-paced healing process and it will be just a matter of time. Although using darkness to fight darkness is a slippery slope because when challenging destiny, we may not be that lucky. So tell me, have you seen such a bitter-sweet final idea applied in a film?
If you like movies that torture you, that make you fear for the characters, that scare and amaze you at the same time, great production, and a dark, hard-as-rock background based on traumatic life experiences, then you’re likely to love Split. It has been a long time since I saw something as greatly done as this film. Simply sit down and let Mr. Shyamalan do his magic.