Saturday, June 28, 2008

The film with the big titulars

Perusing, as is my wont, the titles of some recently released examples of cinema verite on a trip to the local picture palace today, my eye happened to fall idly upon the title of the latest film from the M Night Shyamalan stables. The Happening, the film was called. Film titles are of course meant to be generic, but you can't get much more generic than the happening that is The Happening. It's an almost perfectly ambiguous, and hence ambiguously perfect film title. It gives nothing away, but then, it promises nothing, either: the best title for the sort of film that you spend a lot of money to go and see, and feel vaguely disappointed with after you've seen it. (This is more or less the opposite to gore-fest Snakes in a Plane, in which you know exactly how disappointed you'll be in the film before you pay to see it, but you still pay to see it anyway.) Conversation on the film, one imagines, would go something like this:

A: What just happened?

B: The Happening, that's what happened.

A: Oh dear.

I'm not going to see The Happening. I have no particular interest in what happens in The Happening, and am quite content to let The Happening happen quietly for the next month or so. But really, what a title! You might as well just call the film The Event. As a matter of fact, maybe that very title was considered for The Happening. Perhaps we could apply the same logic to other films. Romantic comedies, for instance, could be described as The Series of Happenings that Happen to Bring Two Random Characters Together in a Romantic Situation. Disaster movies could be called The Thing That Happened, and the Other Things that Happened After The Thing. Science fiction movies, The Series of Rather Improbable Happenings In Big Metal Objects With Lasers.

I eagerly await the planned sequel to The Happening, with the working title The Minor Incident That Occured In the Place With People, and the Insigificant Events that Precipitated As a Result Of It.

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