Director(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Writer(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Reviewed by: Christine Lambert on
Release Date(s)Jul 30, 2004 - Wide
The Village is the latest movie from director M. Night Shyamalan. Best known for his third film, The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan’s latest venture confuses expectations. The Village’s trailer promises a terrifying ride that will keep the audience guessing until the very end, but unlike the majority of trailers that give it all away, this one merely misleads. The Village doesn’t have the same spine-tingling shocks as its predecessors and some in the audience may actually be surprised by the elements that it does focus on. The Village is a love story between the two leads that has suspenseful undertones and asks questions about the function of fear in society.
The Village is set in a nineteenth century settlement that is isolated from the outside world by a forest that encircles it. The outside world is portrayed as being full of thieves and thugs and wrought with hate, greed and desire. Any thoughts about heading out to visit it are headed off by the villagers’ fear of the creatures they refer to as “Those We Do Not Speak Of”. The surrounding forest is full of these creatures and the elders stress that an uneasy truce exists. The villagers don’t enter the forest and the creatures don’t enter the village. The message of fear is driven home constantly. For example, the creatures are attracted by the color red. When a red flower appears, the villagers immediately bury it.
When a young boy dies, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix), who’s curiosity and determination already have him challenging the rules about venturing into the forest and beyond, asks the elders to let him head out to get medicine that will prevent the same fate for others.
Lucius is also attracted to a young blind girl named Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is the daughter of the village’s leader Edward Walker (William Hurt). Their relationship is complicated by the fact that Ivy is also in the affections of Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), a mentally-challenged young man who doesn’t have the same fears as the others and operates by his own rules. The relationships between the characters are set against a backdrop of fear and the inevitable need to go against convention.
Shyamalan is known for his ability to create a mood through his images and sounds. In The Village, cinematographer Roger Deakins assists him. In one scene, Ivy senses that Lucius is outside and goes out onto the porch. Though she cannot see him, she can see his “color”. Deakins creates a beautiful cinematic vision as the pair reveal their love for each other.
Bryce, director Ron Howard’s daughter, portrays Ivy as a strong, intuitive character whose blindness is almost not an impediment to her. Phoenix’s strength is quieter than Ivy’s. Lucius isn’t a typical hero but draws his strength from his integrity and his need to protect Ivy. Brody adds yet another memorable, naturalistic performance to his filmography. William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver give solid performances as two of the elders who form the backbone of the village’s structure.
Viewed in isolation, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village is a good film with great performances and beautiful cinematography. It’s only when viewed in the context of the spine-tingling surprise twists of his previous work like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable that audiences may feel that The Village is lacking. This is more a fault of the film’s marketing than a misstep by Shyamalan. His stories are unique and ironically that could be where the problem lies. Filmgoers are now used to the “surprise ending” and edge-of-the-seat suspense in his films. The Village definitely has a surprise near the end, but it isn’t as earth shattering as one would expect. What the movie delivers is a thoughtful, engaging love story that makes you think about the power of love and the extent to which one would go for that love. It also challenges the filmgoer to look inside themselves and the fears that lie within.