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Lawsuit: Shyamalan's Servant Basically Stole 2013 Film

Francesca Gregorini says 'nothing was left untaken' from 'The Truth About Emanuel'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2020 2:05 PM CST

(Newser) The Truth About Emanuel is about a nanny hired to take care of a "reborn" baby doll. M. Night Shyamalan's Servant, a new series streaming on Apple TV+, is about ... a nanny hired to take care of a "reborn" baby doll. Now Francesca Gregorini, the filmmaker behind the 2013 Emanuel, is suing Apple, Shyamalan, and co-creator Tony Basgallop for plagiarism, Apple Insider reports. "[The] plot description of Emanuel could just as easily be applied to Servant, made six years later," the lawsuit reads. "And that's just the beginning of the commonalities between the two works. These similarities include not just parallel plot points, but also strikingly similar—and highly idiosyncratic—characters, scenes, directorial choices, and modes of storytelling." Continue reading if you want more details, but beware, there are spoilers ahead.

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Per the filing, both works involve a mother's "grief and denial over losing a child" and subsequent "delusional" channeling of her maternal instincts onto a lifelike doll and, then, a teen nanny or "surrogate daughter"; and the nanny's own strong feelings for her employer stemming "from longings for a lost mother, which she finds being fulfilled by a new mother figure in dire need of a child." But the plot similarities go far beyond that, per Gregorini, who cites such examples as both nannies compelling young male characters to steal wine. In fact, Gregorini tells the Atlantic that when the Servant trailer debuted, friends called to congratulate her, assuming she had sold the rights to Emanuel. The similarities aren't just plot-related, she says, noting that even such miniscule details as the blocking of certain shots is similar. "I felt like my film had been studied in semiotics class and they had been given the task of ‘Remake this,'" she says. "Nothing was left untaken." She says Shyamalan and Basgallop claim to have never seen Emanuel. (Read more M. Night Shyamalan stories.)

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