16 December 2009
Science Fiction Trappings and Archetypal Fears and Needs in Signs
M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs is a 2002 released film that crosses the genre boundaries of science fiction, horror and mystery. In the movie, a family, grieving over the death of their beloved mother and wife, experiences a worldwide alien invasion. More particularly, Signs builds its plot upon the global appearances of crop circles as well as alien encounters. Hence, the film refers to the actual mysterious emergences of unexplained crop circles and claims of real-life alien sightings. However, the movie also deals with entirely human issues, difficulties and challenges of life such as faith, loss as well as traditional family values. Combining both, Signs explores various archetypal fears and needs of humanity by employing popular science fiction trappings.
First of all, Signs features the topic of faith as its most prominent theme. Over the course of the plot, “the former Episcopalian minister” (Thompson 128) Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) struggles but eventually regains his personal faith by realizing the meaningfulness of his wife’s last words for the survival of his family. Moreover, the title of the film contains a double meaning since it refers to both the crop circles as signs of an extraterrestrial invasion as well as to divine signs from God to humans. The movie also features various other, more subtle, references emphasizing religious faith. As Thompson explains, a connection between the family and faith is established as early as in the second shot which shows an older family picture in a close-up including Graham wearing his minister’s collar (128). As the family father wakes up, he shifts into the frame of the photo. A few shots later, Graham’s personal crisis of faith becomes obvious when the marks of a cross are shown that has been taken off the wall (128). Thus, the film gives its viewers an early introduction to one of its major, entirely human themes which continues throughout the entire plot. Defined as the fear of God’s non-existence and the need for divine support and guidance, the issue of faith belongs to the traditional dreads and yearnings of humanity employed in the movie