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Keeping the Faith in "Signs"
by Rebecca Murray


Joaquin Phoenix, Mel Gibson, Cherry Jones and Rory Culkin in "Signs."
Photo©2002 Touchstone Pictures - All Rights Reserved.
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Described as part family drama and part thriller, "Signs" is director M. Night Shyamalan's third major feature film ("Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable"). Though young and with very few films under his belt, Shyamalan has established himself as a director to be reckoned with.

Shyamalan's distinctive style is imprinted on each of his films with "Signs" producer Kathleen Kennedy noting, "Night always tells stories that have entertainment value to them. ['Signs'] is scary and suspenseful, and has an aspect to it that makes people want to see the movie, because they know that they are going to have a good time. On the other hand, what Night so successfully does is he always has a subtext to his stories and this is about a man regaining his faith."

Even while sitting in darkened theatres watching things that go bump in the night, audiences understand there's an underlying family theme to Shyamalan's films. Producer Frank Marshall said, "In the case of 'The Sixth Sense,' at first you're watching a movie about ghosts, but then, the second time you see it - knowing what you know - it becomes clear that really, it's a love story. The same is true with 'Signs' - yes, it's a science fiction film, but it's also a serious drama about faith and spirituality. It's really about human emotions that are set in motion by a supernatural event."

In "Signs," Mel Gibson portrays farmer and family man, Graham Hess. Graham's world spirals out of control when he discovers an intricate series of circles and lines carved into his corn field. Together with his brother and two small children, Graham must confront the mystery and question everything he believes to be true.

When discussing "Signs," Shyamalan definitely feels the film's title has two very different, yet equally important, meanings. "One is the crop signs that they find in their yard and the signs that are happening around the world. But it is also about faith and the existence of signs from above," explains Shyamalan. Marshall adds, "You can look at the title of 'Signs' as a sign to open your eyes. The character of Graham is shut down in the beginning of the film and he is not really able to deal with reality. His family is not doing so well. And so, part of the message of the film, I think, is to open your eyes to what is around you and you will see the answers."

Academy Award-winner Mel Gibson was immediately drawn to the film's script because of its complexity. The film is a departure for Gibson and allows him to show off his comedic and dramatic talents, along with his 'action' skills. On Mel's performance producer Sam Mercer says, "You get the sense from Mel Gibson that he is the kind of guy who can do anything. Mel sucks you in. You want to like him and go along on a journey with him."

Gibson's character travels from the ardent spirituality encumbant with his role as an Episcopalian minister, to denial and disbelief after his family is ripped apart by a horrendous accident. With the appearance of the crop circles, his confusion is heightened and his character's spiritual turmoil creates tension amongst his two children and his brother.

Mel Gibson describes "Signs" as a film about spirituality, faith and belief. "Graham is an Episcopalian minister who seems very insistent and stubbornly opposed to the idea of anyone calling him Father. And you soon realize that he is someone who has serious doubts. He has been shut down by a devastating life experience. It's not clear at the beginning of the film what has happened, but you sense it from his behavior and you find out the exact nature of his wounds as the story unfolds," says Gibson.

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"Signs" is rated PG-13 for some frightening moments.

SOURCE: Touchstone Pictures


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