In most cases, directors go from bad or mediocre films to good films as they progress in their career. M. Night Shyamalan seems to have managed to do the opposite. He gained renown with The Sixth Sense (1999), but his movies started to fizzle out with Signs (2002). He really began to lose credibility with audiences after The Happening (2008). When The Village (2004) was released, we still had high expectations, but it was with The Village that he really started to disappoint.
There is a small village of about 60 puritans in rural Pennsylvania. For the most part these puritan settlers live a quiet and peaceful life, but fear the terrible creatures that lurk just outside the borders of the village. The villagers have reached an agreement with these beasts in which each side allowed to go about their business as long as neither one crosses the village’s boundaries. This delicate balance is upset when a young man, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Pheonix), ventures into the forest to see what lies beyond the borders. Animal carcasses, stripped of their fur, being to appear around the village, causing the council of elders to fear for the safety of the village, the agreement with the creatures, and more. After Lucius gets injured, the village patriarch, Edward Walker (William Hurt), sends his daughter Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) through the woods to retrieve medicine from the outside towns. Ivy is blind and cannot tell where she is going or where the prowling creatures might be.
All the characters in this movie are pretty flat and uninteresting. They don’t develop, they aren’t deep, and they are remarkably reserved. It’s almost as if the puritan qualities of simplicity and humility are over insinuated upon the characters to the point that they are scarcely even one-dimensional. Everyone gets along with such ease that they end up feeling unrealistic. The characters (and the tone of the movie itself) are so somber that they almost seem afraid to make the audience aware of their presence.
The best part of The Village is when we are focused on Ivy. About halfway through the movie, Ivy becomes the central figure; she gets to learn about some of the village secrets and she stumbles around in the woods, completely blind. To put the viewer on the same level as Ivy, we see her hand stretched forth to the edge of the screen as she tries to feel her way around. When she comes across something, she feels it with her hand and then it comes into full view on the screen only after Ivy figures out what it is. We are shown shots of the front of Ivy’s feet as she walks through the unfamiliar forest; we (like Ivy) cannot see where she is going or what obstacles may be in her way. Not only is this a brilliant way to visually depict the world through Ivy’s perspective, it also intensifies the sense of being completely lost in the woods and amps up the suspense.
M. Night Shyamalan is known for his twist endings. Generally, a good twist ending blows your mind as you realize all the subtle little things previously in the movie all add up to a big surprise at the end. The twist in The Village was completely out of the blue. There was no logical build up to it, no hints leading up to it, and no subtle clues to take into account. It’s established that there are secrets in the village, but when we see the big secret it’s just too out of place with the story, and even the setting, such that that it’s impossible to swallow.
The Village was the movie that caused M. Night Shyamalan’s credibility as a director and writer to take a significant downswing. The story is pretty forgettable. In fact the only thing that seems to stick out in people’s minds even years after seeing it is how unjustified the ending was and how disconcerted it made them feel. The only redeeming value is the creative camera work while the blind girl stumbles around in the woods. If you haven’t seen The Village, you’re only really missing out on a disappointing product of a formerly good writer and director. If you did see The Village years ago, you probably only remember how non-sequitur the conclusion was. This movie is “okay” at best, but isn’t really worth going out of your way to see.
What did you think of The Village? Did it have some endearing qualities? Did you think the twist ending was acceptable? Comment below and tell me why!