Village, The (2004)

Director:  M. Night Shyamalan
Cast:  Bryce Dallas Howard, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody
Plot:  The population of a small, isolated countryside village believes that their alliance with the mythical creatures that inhabit the forest around them is coming to an end.

Genre:  Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Original Score.
Runtime:  108min
Rating:  PG for a scene of violence and frightening situations.

“There are secrets in every corner of this village. Do you not feel it? Do you not see it?” 

The Village had its fair share of haters when it was first released. In fact, there had been so few admirers of the film over the years that it has become known as a Shyamalan ‘flop’, the one that signaled the beginning of an end for the director who gave us modern mystery-suspense classics like The Sixth Sense (1999) and Signs (2002).

The Village remains to be the most beautifully shot Shyamalan feature in his entire oeuvre to date, not surprising because the film’s cinematography is handled by the legendary Roger Deakins.

Brilliant lighting, the use of startling primary colours red and yellow, and some innovative long takes give The Village a kind of visual splendor rarely seen in a mystery film with horror elements. The story, however, does not live up to its excellent visuals. But for all of its flaws and loopholes in logic, it still captivates only if you are willing to be suck into the world of Shyamalan.

He may be a filmmaker who is living on borrowed time, and his audience losing faith in his storytelling abilities, but Shyamalan is still one of the contemporary masters of suspense filmmaking. He has that rare gift of cranking up the tension and dread, yet his films retain its dramatic potency without straying to quasi-horror  territory that other filmmakers inevitably are forced to do.

The Village centers on an isolated community that lives in the woods. There is a kind of serene 19th century period setting to the place. But not all is peaceful as it seems. There is a truce – the people of this community are forbidden to cross a certain boundary, while the meat-eating creatures on the other side stay clear of the community.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Lucius Hunt who falls in love with Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard). An unfortunate incident occurs, and the power of love is all that stands between life and death. Howard gives a stunning breakout performance that is impossible to dislike, with Phoneix and a supporting cast including Adrien Brody, William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver providing adequate support.

While Signs explored the theme of faith, The Village is essentially a film about love and hope. It does have an uneven first act with some cringe-worthy moments like the scene where a girl lyrically confesses to a boy in a shed. But as the second act begins, it becomes involving till the very end.

The suspense in the third act in the woods is masterful, perhaps one of the most nerve-wrecking experiences from Shyamalan, rivaling that of the entire basement sequence in Signs. There is a twist in the film, which to some is the final nail in the director’s coffin. For me, it is nothing more than a revelation. Speaking of revelations, James Newton Howard’s revelatory music, one of the most refined and delicate of scores ever, tragically did not win the Oscar.

Verdict:  Infused with Shyamalan's unique visual style and moments of white-knuckle suspense, this is a flawed yet decent effort. 


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