Reworking the postmodern understanding of reality through fantasy in M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water (2006) and Neil Jordan’s Ondine (2009)


  • Manal Shalaby Ain Shams University, Cairo



Postmodern psyche, Reality, Fantasy, Storytelling, Meaning-making, Metafiction, Unconscious


In the two feature films Lady in the Water (2006) and Ondine (2009), M. Night Shyamalan and Neil Jordan, respectively, present us with two grounded-in-reality fairy tales whose two male protagonists come in close contact with two mythical water creatures – encounters that positively reshape their perspective on reality through the use of fantasy. Shyamalan relates the story of an emotionally wrecked middle-aged man who rescues a ‘narf’ (a water nymph in an unoriginated ancient bedtime story) from the pool of the dreary building he is superintending, while Jordan follows the ordeal of a struggling Irish fisherman who accidentally fishes a ‘selkie’ (a Celtic seal-like water creature that has the power to assume full human form on land by shedding its seal skin). The two films negotiate the problematic connection between the fantastic and the real, and question the postmodern concept of representations masking an absence of solid reality as proposed by Jean Baudrillard. The paper focuses on tracing the ontological and linguistic role of fantasy in relation to reality and delineates how acts of storytelling and representation can refashion the human psyche’s perception of reality in a postmodern world by analysing the narrative and psychological means by which this relation is constructed in Shyamalan’s and Jordan’s films. The main argument of the paper is to explore how employing metafictional narrative techniques and reworking the psyche’s ties to fantasy can offer the postmodern individual a more enabling understanding of themselves and their reality.