Aneesh Chaganty

Movie #199 The Village

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2011 at 6:21 AM

Movie #199 The Village

(2004, US, d. M. Night Shyamalan)

There’s a moment about a third into this film that I will never forget: The blind Ivy Walker (played by newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard) stretches out her hand into the night air from her open doorway. The creatures have just begun their invasion upon the village. Her younger sister begs her to come hide, but Ivy remains insistent that “he” is watching. Suddenly, the creature, draped in red, becomes visible. It comes closer and closer – now running to her outstretched hand. And then out of thin hair, “he” appears. It is Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) who has, indeed, been watching for her safety. James Newton Howard’s haunting (Oscar nominated) score kicks in and we move into slow motion as Lucius leads Ivy into the safety of her home’s basement…. The reason this scene sticks out to me – probably more than any single scene in a Shyamalan film – is because it makes the audience believe. It forces our belief in this love, in this town, and in the fight against these creatures, or Those We Don’t Speak Of. However, unlike his previous three knockouts, The Village isn’t as beautiful and believable as this single scene is. In fact, after making millions on the sole theme of “belief”, Shyamalan’s double-whammy at the end of this flick destroys everything he has built his empire on, challenging audiences now to revisit his earlier works with a more ‘Camp’ sensibility. This movie, originally titled The Woods, had all the right elements: visually (who can complain with Roger Deakins?), story-wise (in my opinion, one of the best set-ups for a love story), and to a certain extent, dialogue-wise. Everyone believed in Shyamalan, especially the people at Disney, who didn’t completely buy into the script. Everything was right except for the end product – something so delicate that it was bound to shatter before the first “act break”. An unconventional film in all regards, The Village is based on an extremely fragile premise and everything about it points to that fragility: the music, the acting, the dialogue, the minimalism, everything. It just wasn’t interesting for mainstream audiences. As an art picture, if released by anyone else, I think this film could have succeeded (due to honest marketing strategies, most likely – something Shyamalan never seems to receive) but Shyamalan’s name is, after all, Shyamalan’s name. Whatever that may insinuate.

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