Get your hands on the all new Heinemann Media 3rd Edition for 2018.
Close Notification
Open Notification

Unbreakable: Questions and Activities

Unbreakable: Questions and Activities

1. Describe the opening sequence of the film, explaining its function in the overall narrative.

2. Explain how Shyamalan uses production elements to develop the relationship between Audrey and David when he returns home after the accident (00:13:18-00:14:17).

3. Explain how Shyamalan encourages the audience to identify with the point of view of David during the memorial service. Why is the subsequent scene in the car park important to the chain of cause and effect in the film?

4. Explain how Elijah’s character is developed through structuring of time and various production elements in the flashback to his childhood and the subsequent scene in the art gallery.

5. Explain how Elijah’s character is developed through structuring of time and various production elements in the flashback to his childhood and the subsequent scene in the art gallery.

6. Explain how the scene in which David visits Elijah is an important link in the chain of cause and effect in the film.

7. Explain how Shyamalan continues to develop the character of David and his relationship with Audrey through various production elements (00:31:14-00:34:59).

8. Explain how Shyamalan uses production elements to explain that David has a vision (00:35:56-00:36:15)

9. Explain how Shyamalan uses production elements to engage the audience in this scene (00:39:21 – 00:41:31).

10. How does Shyamalan develop David’s character through the use of a variety of production elements, including camera techniques and acting (00:54:56-00:57:31).

11. How does Shyamalan develop the relationship between Audrey and David throughout this scene using a variety of production elements? (01:04:52-01:09:33)

12. How does Shyamalan use production elements and the structuring of time to develop David’s character throughout this scene? (01:11:20-01:14:59)

13. How does Shyamalan use production elements and the structuring of time throughout this scene to tell the story? (01:14:59-01:18:58)

14. How does Shyamalan engage the audience in the climactic scene of the film? (01:18:58-01:27:34)

15. There are three main story lines in the film: David’s search for self identity, the relationship between David and Audrey and the relationship between David and Joseph. How are these story lines resolved at the end of the narrative? (01:27:39-01:31:55)

16. How does Shyamalan convey the final reveal about Elijah? How is this resolved? (01:34:10-01:38:10)

17. What are the conventions of superhero narratives? To what extent does Unbreakable adhere to the conventions of this genre?

UNBREAKABLE SAMPLE ANSWERS

1. Describe the opening sequence of Unbreakable, explaining its function in the overall narrative.

The opening sequence of a narrative serves several purposes, including: establishing the characters and setting of the film, establishing the first event in a causal chain which will ultimately be resolved at the end of the narrative and engaging the audience. In Unbreakable (2000), Shyamalan uses the opening sequence to establish the characters of David Dunn and Elijah Price and starting the causal chain in this narrative with the train accident which starts David down the path of discovering that he’s a superhero.

The first scene in the opening sequence is used to establish the character of Elijah Price. The film opens with the sound of a crying baby. After several seconds, Shyamalan fades in to reveal the interior of a department store change room. The words”Philadelphia Department Store, 1961″ appear on screen. Throughout this scene, Shyamalan uses a range of production elements to establish this character. Through the door, the audience sees a woman and man approach the room, reflected by the department store mirrors. Reflections are used frequently throughout the film, a visual motif that reinforces the sense that David and Elijah are reflections of each other and that Elijah is particularly frail. Later in the film, he admits that children at school teased him, calling him Mr Glass. The camera tilts down to reveal a ‘striking African-American woman in her twenties’ who holds the crying baby in her arms. As the camera tilts down, the audience realises that they’ve been watching a reflection within a reflection. Elijah’s mother is dressed in purple. Shyamalan uses colour in a very deliberate manner throughout the film: “There was a big design premise which was that the David Dunn world was a warm world and the Elijah world was a cold, steely world.” Throughout the film, Shyamalan uses distinctly different colours to portray the worlds of David Dunn and Elijah Price. Elijah’s world is cold, sterile and purple whereas David’s world is filled with green, organic tones. In addition to reinforcing the binary opposition of these characters, this use of colour is also a subtle nod to the conventions of comic books which often use bold, striking colours to distinguish between heroes and villains. As Doctor Mathison examines the baby, the camera moves between the woman and the reflection of the doctor. As he realises there’s something wrong with the child, camera movement becomes more frenetic moving between the doctors and the sales assistants, Doctor Mathison says: “Please inform the ambulance we have a situation…I’ve never seen this… It appears that your baby has sustained some fractures while in your uterus. His arms and his legs are broken.” Elijah’s mother begins to sob, a close-up emphasising her emotional pain. This combination of sound, acting and camera movement all contribute to the character development of Elijah at the beginning of the film.

After the credits, the opening sequence continues and Shyamalan establishes the character of David Dunn. Shyamalan fades in to reveal David Dunn (Bruce Willis) sitting with his temple resting against the window of a passenger train. He is dressed in a green shirt and jacket. In this scene, acting and camera techniques are used to establish the loneliness and isolation of this character. David again rests his head against the window, rubbing his eyes. Off screen, we hear a woman’s voice: “Are you alone?” David nods and she sits beside him. Shyamalan’s emphasis on character development is evident from the opening scene. This line actually conveys a great deal of meaning. David is alone. Estranged from his family and dissatisfied with his place in the world. The camera pans left to reveal a beautiful woman. As she stows her bags in the overhead compartment, the camera lingers on her toned, tattooed stomach before panning back to David who surreptitiously removes his wedding ring. This combination of acting and camera movement establishes David as a character who is unhappy with his marriage.  In the course of the conversation, Shyamalan reveals through dialogue that David doesn’t like football and is phobic of water. Throughout this scene, the audience is encouraged to identify with the point of view of David Dunn. When Kelly reveals she’s married, he responds awkwardly and embarrassed. “I…I think you misunderstood…when I was…uh…saying.” The camera pans back to David, then tilts down as he puts his wedding ring back on. He leans back against the chair, defeated and alone, and sighs. In another shot, Shyamalan shows him, once again, leaning his head dejectedly against the window. This combination of acting, dialogue and camera movement encourages the audience to identify with his point of view.

In the ER, David’s character development continues through acting, dialogue and camera movement. “You will officially be the only survivor of this train wreck…you didn’t break one bone, you don’t have a scratch on you.” In the ER, the camera circles David and tilts down to show Joseph joins his parent’s hands together. As they leave, their hands remain linked for a few seconds then fall apart. When David hugs Audrey, he embraces her momentarily with one arm, looking dully into the middle distance. He pats her unaffectionately on one shoulder. This combination of acting and camera movement contributes significantly to the relationship between David and his family.

The opening sequence of a film performs a number of important functions in the context of a narrative, including: establishing the characters and setting of the film, establishing the first event in a causal chain which will ultimately be resolved at the end of the narrative and engaging the audience.

2. Explain how Shyamalan uses production elements to develop the relationship between Audrey and David when he returns home after the accident (00:13:18-00:14:17).

When David returns home from the emergency room, Shyamalan uses a combination of acting, camera techniques and dialogue to develop the relationship between David and Audrey further. As he retires for the evening, he encounters his wife who is quietly putting ironed clothes into her drawers. Obviously shaken by his experience on the train wreck, David explains that he didn’t receive the position that he was applying but he still intends to relocate to New York: I don’t think I got the job. I’m still going to, uh- I’m still moving there.” Although this is largely conveyed through dialogue and acting, camera techniques also play an important role in establishing the distance between the two characters. Throughout this scene, they aren’t shown together in the frame – instead Shyamalan cuts between a shot of David standing on the stairs and Audrey folding clothes inside her bedroom. Throughout this brief scene, Shyamalan has used a combination of production elements – specifically acting, camera techniques and dialogue – to develop the strained relationship between David and Audrey.

3. Explain how Shyamalan encourages the audience to identify with the point of view of David during the memorial service. Why is the subsequent scene in the car park important to the chain of cause and effect in the film?

Mise-en-scene, camera techniques and acting are used throughout the memorial service to encourage the audience to identify with David Dunn. The scene opens with a handheld shot which tracks David through a crowd of well-dressed people. The camera pauses on sign which reads, “MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR THE FAMILIES OF EASTRAIL TRAIN 177.” As David walks through the crowd, diegetic sound is once again used to establish the setting. In the background, a church bell chimes repeatedly. Inside the church, a priest reads a list of those killed in the train wreck, the camera dollies out to reveal ornate notice boards plastered with photographs of the victims who include a teacher, social worker and leukemia researcher. This combination of mise-en-scene and sound – as the priest reads out a list of the dead, contributes to audience identification  sympathy towards David Dunne is high at this point. Like the character himself, the audience is wondering why his seemingly hollow and worthless life was spared. When he returns to the car park, there is a note jammed under the windshield of his car, an over-the-shoulder shot reveals that the note asks a simple question: How many days of your life have you been sick? This is a crucial moment in the narrative’s chain of cause and effect because it motivates David to consider that he might be impervious to harm.

4. In the subsequent scenes, the character of David is developed further. Explain how Shyamalan uses production elements to achieve this (15:51-20:04)

In the scenes after the memorial service, Shyamalan uses a range of production elements to develop the character of David Dunn, suggesting that he may possess superhuman abilities. After asking the secretary at the stadium whether he’s ever taken any sick days, Shyamalan cuts to a shot of David watching over a football game. David stands in an archway, completely backlit, his poncho creating a stark silhouette against the light. Although it’s much later in the narrative that the audience discovers that David is a superhero ‘put here to protect the rest of us’, Shyamalan hints at this several times in the narrative, including here when David’s poncho creates an iconic silhouette  very similar to other superheroes like Batman. Shyamalan cuts from a shot of the footballers to a close-up of David watching indifferently. This combination of close ups, editing and acting contributes to the sense that David doesn’t particularly like football,   Although his reasons for disliking football are unclear at this point in the narrative, the sport comes to represent his failed dreams and ambitions. When he returns to the locker room, his boss approaches him: “You’re getting a forty dollar a week raise…that’s it. I checked. You were right. You’ve never taken a sick day. Five years, no sick days. I get it. You want a raise. Smart way to make your point.” This dialogue develops the notion that David has never been sick which ultimately leads to the realisation that he is almost impervious to sickness or serious injury. Throughout these scenes, Shyamalan contributes to the idea that David may posses superhuman abilities through the use of camera techniques, editing, lighting, acting and dialogue.

5. Explain how Elijah’s character is developed through structuring of time and various production elements in the flashback to his childhood and the subsequent scene in the art gallery.

Partway into the narrative, Shyamalan uses a combination of production elements – including mise-en-scene, acting and dialogue – as well as the structuring of time to develop the character of Elijah Price. Shyamalan fades in to reveal a thirteen year old Elijah Price sitting in front of a television set. His arm is in a sling and he wears a purple turtleneck sweater. The year and location appear on the screen: West Philadelphia, 1974. Mise-en-scene is used to hint at the fragility of Elijah who is shown in the reflection of the television set. His mother approaches him from behind, dialogue and acting contributing significantly to the character development of Elijah. Elijah sits in front of the television set shoulders slumped, dejected. I’m not going out anymore,” he says. “I’m not getting hurt again. This was the last time. I told you.” The subsequent scenes, when Elijah goes down to the park to collect a comic book that his mother has left there for him helps to establish the importance of superhero stories in his life. Elijah walks across the street to get the present which is wrapped with purple tissue paper inside a purple box. He unwraps it to reveal a limited edition comic book, Active Comics “The Battle with Jaguaro”. The cover features a hero named Slayer who is clad in green and yellow (colours strikingly similar to those of David Dunne’s poncho) against a city scape rendered with purple ink. The hero is gallantly fending off a slavering beast called Jaguaro. Interestingly, the words ‘LIMITED EDITION’ are printed across the bottom of the cover. This, of course, will later become the name of Elijah’s gallery. The impact that comic books had on Elijah’s life is underscored by his mother who says, “I bought a whole bunch. There’ll be one of these waiting for you, every time you want to come out here.” Shyamalan uses the structuring of time to show Elijah as an adult. Shyamalan uses a combination of acting, mise-en-scene and dialogue to develop Elijah’s character further. The film dissolves to a detailed, pencil rendering of the same cover, displayed on the wall of Elijah’s art gallery. Elijah and one of his customers are reflected in the glass of the delicate frame. “This is from Fritz Champion’s own library,” Elijah says. “This is before the first issue of the comic book hit the stands in 1968. It’s a classic depiction of good versus evil. Notice the square jaw of Slayer – common in most comic book heroes. And the slightly disproportionate size of Jaguaro’s head to his body. This again is common, but only in villains… The thing to notice about this piece… The thing that makes it very, very special…is its realistic depiction of its figures. When the characters eventually made it into the magazine they were exaggerated… as always happens. This is vintage.” Elijah’s dialogue is significant for a number of reasons. First, like the preceding scene, it is rather self-reflexive, Shyamalan is commenting upon the narrative of Unbreakable itself which can accurately be described as a ‘realistic depiction” of comic book figures. It’s also interesting that Elijah mentions the ‘slightly disproportionate size of Jaguaro’s head to his body’. Throughout the film, Elijah’s haircut becomes more and more exaggerated and his head quite literally appears slightly disproportionate to his body. When Elijah discovers that his customer is purchasing the expensive piece of artwork for his four-year-old son, he becomes angry and unleashes a bitter diatribe: “Do you see any Telletubbies around here?… Do you see a slender plastic tag clipped to my shirt with my name printed on it?… Do you see a little Asian child with a blank expression sitting outside in a mechanical helicopter that shakes when you put a quarter in it?… No?…Well that’s what you see at a toy store? Any you must think you’re in a toy store, because you’re in here shopping for an infant named Jeb. One of us has made a gross error and wasted the other person’s valuable time. This is an art gallery, my friend. And this is a piece of art.” This scene is significant precisely because it is the first time the audience has been introduced to the adult Elijah. Samuel L. Jackson’s performance contributes significantly to character development, establishing Elijah as cold and impertinent. His exaggerated haircut and purple garb, when considered in the context of the entire narrative, is reminiscent of several comic book villains. The mise-en-scene reflects Shyamalan’s intention that Elijah’s world is ‘cold and steely’.

6. Explain how the scene in which David visits Elijah is an important link in the chain of cause and effect in the film.

The scenes in which David first meets Elijah is an important link in the causal chain of this narrative. During this scene, Shyamalan uses dialogue to suggest the idea that David possesses superhuman powers. Elijah explains his disease and why he is interested in David. “I’ve studied the form of comics intimately. I’ve spent a third of my life in a hospital bed with nothing else to do but read. I believe that comics are our last link to am ancient way of passing on history. The Egyptians drew on walls. Countries all over the world still pass on knowledge through pictorial forms. I believe comics are a form of history that someone, somewhere felt or experienced. Then of course that core got chewed up in the commercial machine, got jazzed up, made titillating – cartooned for the sale rack.” Elijah has genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta which means that his body doesn’t produce enough of a particular protein, making his bones brittle. During his lifetime he has sustained fifty-four breaks. Elijah believes that if there is someone like him in the world, then there must be somebody at the other end of the spectrum who cannot be hurt, a person “put here to protect the rest of us”. This scene is crucial in setting up the twist at the end of the narrative. During the exposition, Elijah notes: ” This city has had its share of disasters. I watched the aftermath of that plane crash, I watched the carnage of the hotel fire, I watched the news, waiting to hear a very specific combination of words but they never came. Then one day I saw a news story about a train accident and I heard them. There is a sole survivor and he is miraculously unharmed.” This conversation helps to move the narrative forward, compelling both David and his son to entertain the prospect that he has superpowers.

7. Explain how Shyamalan continues to develop the character of David and his relationship with Audrey through various production elements (00:31:14-00:34:59).

Midway through the film, Shyamalan continues to develop the character of David and his relationship with Audrey, using a variety of production elements including camera techniques, acting, editing and sound. David goes through a folder of newspaper clippings hidden away at the top of his closet. David flips through the articles, which are shown through a sustained point-of-view shot. The audience catches a glimpse of the headlines: WARRIORS RUN TO CHAMPIONSHIPS, WARRIORS ROOKIE WINS 4TH QUARTER VICTORY. When he reaches one particular article, the film cuts to a low-angle shot of David examining the article. Shyamalan cuts to a close-up of the headline, “Local football star injured in near fatal car accident.” The camera pans left to reveal a more recent headline, “Local man only survivor of deadly train crash.” The camera slowly zooms into the picture of David’s wrecked car. These close ups of the articles help to establish that before David was injured in a car accident during college, he was a promising athlete. The latter headlines also imply that there might be a reason why he survived two nearly fatal accidents. He is interrupted by a soft knock at the door. Here, Shyamalan uses a combination of dialogue and acting to develop the relationship between David and his wife further. “I just want to ask you something, okay?” Audrey asks. “And you can be totally honest. I’m prepared for any answer. It won’t affect me…Have you been with anyone? I mean, since we started having problems? The answer won’t affect me. My decision is… I’d like to start again. Pretend we’re at the beginning. It’s a big deal you walked away from that train. It’s a second chance. If you want to ask me out sometime, that would be okay.” When David reveals that he hasn’t been with anyone else, Audrey breaks down in tears. Robin Wright Penn’s performance is particularly poignant and contributes to the sense that their relationship has been through a difficult period. Throughout this scenes, Shyamalan continues to develop the character of David and his relationship with Audrey using a variety of production elements including camera techniques, acting, editing and sound.

8. Explain how Shyamalan uses production elements to explain that David has a vision (00:35:56-00:36:15)

In this scene, Shyamalan uses camera techniques, sound editing, acting and dialogue to convey the idea that David has the ability to sense when people have done something wrong. While walking through the crowd and explaining his occupation to Elijah, the sound of the crowd becomes muted and there is a soft ringing sound. David turns and the camera dollies in on his concerned expression. This combination of close up, acting, camera movement and sound editing conveys that he has sensed something. When he reaches the end of the line, David says, “The tall guy in the camouflage jacket. Sometimes people carry weapons in here. Then they drink too much. Team’s not doing good, bad things can happen… We do pat downs of the crowd to discourage people from carrying. If he’s carrying, he’ll step out of line.” Shyamalan cuts to a shot of the man as he begins to look nervous, coughs, steps between the barriers and leaves.

Explain how Shyamalan uses production elements to engage the audience in this scene (00:39:21 – 00:41:31).

Shyamalan uses a range of production elements including camera techniques, acting, music and dialogue in this scene to engage the audience. Elijah is sitting in the car and he see’s the man from the stadium running away, Shyamalan shot this with Elijah looking through the rear-view mirror in his car. This use of a point-of-view shot is engaging because it immerses the audience in the scene and makes them feel as if they’re watching the man with Elijah. The audience can see the man walking away quickly. Elijah gets out of his car and the camera is in front of Elijah, the handheld camera movement gives the shot a sense of realism and engages the audience. Shyamalan cuts between a shot of Elijah and a shot of the man disappearing around the corner. When he cuts back to Elijah, the camera dollies out from him which implies that the man is getting away. The use of acting here shows that Elijah is panicking, his facial expression shows that he is somewhat worried or anxious this engages the audience in the scene because they, like Elijah, are keen to discover whether the man is actually carrying a gun with a black and silver handle.

The dialogue also hints at Elijah’s desperation and helps to engage the audience, “I just want to ask you something” The desperate tone in his voice helps to engage the audience as they, like Elijah, hope the man doesn’t slip away. When the man goes to turn the corner the camera show Elijah across the road, this use of visual composition conveys how far away he is and engages the audience because they want to see if Elijah will catch up to the man – in the foreground, the man disappears down the subway steps, leaving Elijah in the distance on the opposite side of the road.

When Elijah reaches the top of the stairs, Shyamalan heightens the drama by dollying out to reveal how steep the steps are. To emphasise the drama, James Newton Howard’s score rises sharply. Elijah’s facial expression suddenly changes and the audience feels that he is scared; the audience then becomes worried for him. The camera is then at the top of the stars and it shows the man in the camouflage jacket getting away, this further compounds the audience engagement.

There is then a close up of Elijah’s face; he looks desperate, the tone of his voice also adds to the effect of his desperation to simply ask the man ‘something’. Elijah then starts to go down the stairs. There is an extreme close up of his feet, they seem to be slipping, and then it cuts to his hand on the supporting pole, which also appears to be struggling to hold on. This use of editing and close up engages the audience because they become anxious and scared for Elijah, as it appears he is going to fall and the audience is aware of his medical condition. The music in the background is a typical suspense type of music, building tension in the scene.

We then see Elijah’s hand slip of the rail and he begins to fall. Shyamalan uses slow motion to emphasise the drama. The camera begins to spin in slow motion, showing Elijah’s point of view as he falls. This use of a point-of-view show is highly engaging, making the audience feel as if they’re actually falling down the steps. Shyamalan shows Elijah’s walking stick smashing, as it is made of glass, the audience then assumes that the same is going to happen to Elijah. Shyamalan returns abruptly to real time as Elijah’s body hits the concrete stairs. This, accompanied by the sound of bones snapping and terrifying screams of pain, further engages the audience in the scene. When he reaches the bottom of the stairs, Shyamalan cuts to another point of view shot which shows a silver gun with a black grip tucked into the man’s pants, just as David said, this makes the audience wonder and start to believe that David is perhaps the a superhero. Throughout this sequence, Shyamalan uses a combination of camera techniques, acting, visual composition, editing, lighting and sound to engage the audience.

How does Shyamalan develop David’s character through the use of a variety of production elements, including camera techniques and acting (00:54:56-00:57:31).

Throughout this scene, Shyamalan uses a combination of acting and dialogue to develop the main storyline in the film and develop the character of David further. The school nurse explains how David nearly drowned when he was a child. “Well, you were a little younger than Joseph when it happened,” she explains. “Did you know that we changed the rules of conduct around the pool because of you? The kids still tell about it…like it was some sort of ghost story. ‘Did you know there was a kid nearly drowned in that pool? He lay on the bottom of the pool for five minutes. And when they pulled him out, he was dead.’” As she relates the story, the camera slowly dollies in on David who appears slightly shaken by the realisation. This combination of acting, camera movement and dialogue helps to engage the audience because they, like David, have started to believe that he is someone “put here to protect the rest of us.” His disappointment is compounded in the subsequent scene when he explains to Joseph that he’s “just an ordinary man”.

How does Shyamalan develop the relationship between Audrey and David throughout this scene using a variety of production elements? (01:04:52-01:09:33)

During the restaurant scene Shyamalan uses camera techniques, dialogue and acting to develop the relationship between Audrey and David throughout this scene. This scene opens with Audrey and David in the same shot, which creates the idea that they are both making an effort to mend their broken relationship. The entire scene is shot in one take; the camera begins at the other side of the restaurant and gradually dollies in on the couple creating a sense of increasing intimacy. Mise-en-scene also makes an important contribution to the rekindling of their relationship. They couple is sitting in front of a large painting of a landscape, the canvas is painted in warm organic hues.  Dialogue is important throughout this scenes to develop their relationship as the two characters play a game, asking each other about their favourite things, the game stops when Audrey asks the question, “When was the first time, the thought popped into your head that we might not make it?” as the camera dollies in, he proceeds to tell her that he had a nightmare, “I didn’t wake you up so you could tell me that is was okay, I think that was the first time.” They continue to talk about their relationship when Audrey asks, “ Do you knowingly keep me and Joseph at a distance?” David pauses to think and replies with, “yes” she asks why, and he says’ “I don’t know… It just don’t feel right Audrey, something’s… just not right…” which adds to David’s realisation of his ‘powers’, but also the realisation that his marriage is hanging by a string. Throughout this scene, Shyamalan uses a combination of production elements to convey that the relationship between David and Audrey is regaining some of its intimacy. The intimate lighting, warm hues used in the painting in the background, along with the genuine affection expressed through their soft voices all contributes to this sense.

12. How does Shyamalan use production elements and the structuring of time to develop David’s character throughout this scene? (01:11:20-01:14:59)

Shyamalan employs the structuring of time to take the audience back to the car crash, a flashback. He lingers on slow motion shot of David as he looks at the tangled wreckage of Eastrail Trail 117. Cutting to black, the flashback initially reveals a young David as he stares at a car crash. He staggers toward the car. This use of camera techniques as well as the use of music conveys the urgency of David’s plight. David initially struggles to pull aside the tightly wedged car door, the sound of him grunting shows the enormous effort required. When he does manage to open it, Shyamalan uses groaning metal sounds to suggest the strength of David. As David removes Audrey from the wreck, a passing motorist asks, “Hey man, are you hurt?” The subsequent slow motion shot demonstrates the difficult decision David is making. The sharp ringing of a telephone, cutting into the previous shot, brings the audience back to the present. Shyamalan cuts to a darkly lit interior shot of Elijah as he wheels himself to the phone. The audiences’ suspicions are confirmed when David confesses at the other end of the line, “I wasn’t injured in that car accident, I’ve never been injured Elijah.”

How does Shyamalan use production and story elements to convey that David has had a vision? 

In the train station at the end of the film, Shyamalan uses a combination of production and story elements are used to convey David’s ability—including editing, sound, camera angle, mise-en-scene and the structuring of time. A woman in red brushes against David, there is a brief flash of white and a sharp, non-diegetic screech. This combination of editing and sound conveys that David is having a vision. Shyamalan cuts to a high angle shot of the woman in a jewellery store. She points to the shelf behind the sales assistant. When he turns around, she reaches into the display case, stealing something. Mise-en-scene, too, conveys that this is a vision. Apart from the red jacket, this scene is almost devoid of colour. The high angle used in David’s visions is reminiscent of a security camera which refers back to the word ‘SECURITY‘ stencilled on the back of David’s jacket. The high angle shot is reminiscent of a security camera. Shyamalan abruptly cuts back to David in the train station, for a moment the footage is slightly fast, conveying that something preternatural has happened. This use of production elements and the structuring of time is repeated several times throughout this sequence.

There are three main story lines in the film: David’s search for self identity, the relationship between David and Audrey and the relationship between David and Joseph. How are these story lines resolved at the end of the narrative? (01:27:39-01:31:55)

At the end of Unbreakable, three main storylines are resolved one after the other: David’s search for identity and meaning; David’s troubled relationship with his wife, Audrey; and David’s relationship with his son, who believes he is a superhero. This is achieved through the use of a variety of production elements.

Towards the end of the narrative, David overcomes a vicious home invader who is holding two children captive. After this sequence, he returns home. Shyamalan shows a shot of a hallway cupboard opening and David hanging up his poncho with the word ‘SECURITY’ stencilled on the back. The camera slowly dollies in on the word, confirming that David has realised his destiny as a superhero.

Shyamalan fades into a shot of David walking up the stairs with Audrey in his arms. Like the restaurant, the lighting is warm and intimate. Throughout this scene, sound also contributes to the renewed intimacy between these characters – soft, romantic music plays in the background. When he lays her down on the bed and embraces her, he says, “I had a bad dream.” Throughout these two scenes, lighting and sound – in the form of romantic music and dialogue – contribute significantly to the growing intimacy between Audrey and David and resolve this storyline.

The following morning, the relationship between David and his son Joseph, who believes his father is a superhero, is resolved using a combination of acting, editing and camera techniques. Shyamalan shows a point-of-view shot from Joseph’s perspective as he looks forlornly at the table. David slides a newspaper into the top right hand corner of the screen. The camera tilts up as Joseph looks at his father. A subsequent shot shows the newspaper headline: “SAVED. “Hero” rescues two children”. Shyamalan cuts to a close-up of Joseph whose eyes well up with tears, then to a shot of David who nods whispers, “You were right.”

How does Shyamalan convey the final reveal about Elijah? How is this resolved? (01:34:10-01:38:10)

The final reveal about Elijah is revealed using a combination of production elements. Elijah holds up the newspaper with the story about . “It has begun. Tell me something, David. When you woke up this morning, was it still there? The sadness?” David replies that it wasn’t. Elijah thinks for a moment, then says, “I think this is where we shake hands.”

When their hands touch, David experiences a series of flashes: Elijah sitting at an airport, there is a distant explosion he calmly leaves the lounge; Elijah drinking in a bar, an old man explaining that he knows ‘the building’s secrets…like, if there ever was a fire on floors one, two or three, everyone in that hotel would be burned alive; Elijah stepping out of a train and is warned by the driver that ‘passengers aren’t allowed in there.” As he looks around the room, David sees newspaper clippings, schematics and bomb making material. “Do you know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world. To not know why you’re here. That’s just an awful feeling…I almost gave up hope. There were so many times that I questioned myself. So many sacrifices just to find you. Now that we know who you are, we know who I am. I’m not a mistake. It all makes sense! In a comic, do you know how you can tell who the arch villain is going to be? He’s the exact opposite of the hero. And most time they’re friends like you and me! I should have known way back when, you know why David? Because of the kids…they called me Mr Glass.”