Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
The Village opens during a funeral of a young child who has died from illness. The headstone reveals the date as the end of the 19th Century. Surrounding the village is a forest no one can enter because of a deal made between the Village Elders and the monsters of the forest. Flags of yellow mark off the border. Red is the color of the monsters. There must never be red anywhere in the village or else the monsters will appear and they won’t be happy. This is illustrated when two girls sweeping their porch see a red flower growing. They rip it out of the ground and quickly bury it.
Lucius, a shy young man, played by Joaquin Phoenix, interrupts the Elders’ meeting to read to them a speech that he wrote. He tells them he is willing to risk his life by traveling through the forest to get to the towns. This will allow him to retrieve medicine so no one else has to die from illness. They appreciate his bravery, but decline his offer.
Lucius learns that Noah, played by Adrian Brody, occasionally enters the forest. Because he is slow and childlike, Lucius believes that it is because of Noah’s innocence that the monsters did not harm him. Lucius crosses the border into the forest. He takes a few steps, but quickly returns.
The monsters enter the village and kill small animals and livestock. The Elders are scared by this new aggressive activity by the monsters. The truce appears to be coming to an end.
As we know from Night’s other films, things are never as they appear and the reality of this world will slowly be revealed to us. Unfortunately, the plot, which is usually one of his strengths, is very flawed. Elements of the story are forced to keep the suspense heightened; however, it does so at the expense of logic and believability. When you get to the end, actions and decisions by some characters make absolutely no sense, so the film is unsatisfying.
I would recommend skipping this film, which is too bad because it has some wonderful moments. The lighting is fantastic and Night is still one of the best creators of suspense in his choice of shot selection and composition. Adrian Brody’s character, Noah, a retarded young man, is more interesting and complex than he appears. Brody does a good job bringing him to life. While I didn’t care for the film, I would still be interested in seeing it again to watch Noah, but that will have to wait until The Village comes on cable because this is the first film of Night’s that I won’t be buying on DVD.
Even though I am not recommending this movie, I would like to take a moment and come to Night’s defense against some of his critics because Night has created a bit of a problem for himself as a filmmaker. His first three movies were so good that they even entertained dumb people. This has resulted by the aforementioned knuckleheads thinking his movies are all about the Twilight Zone moments when a big twist is revealed. What these Neanderthals don’t understand is that his films aren’t about the twist. Instead, they are about what the new information adds to the plot and theme of the work.
After The Sixth Sense fooled everyone, some people thought, he’s not going to get me next time. After Unbreakable, I kept hearing people say, “I knew he was a superhero.” Of course, they missed the larger issue, which is about Bruce and Samuel’s characters finding their place in the world. It is a major theme that the main characters deal with in all Night’s films.
Some of the criticism I hear about The Village are the same type of comments. “Oh, I knew very early what was going on because...” Well, congratulations, genius, but it’s not as if Night tried to keep the truth hidden from you. There were clues all over the place. However, the film is not about the twist. Even though it fails, the story is bigger than just being about that.
It reminds me of back when I was in the fourth grade. After my mama was kind enough to take my younger sister and I to see a performance of Red Skelton, I thought I would bring some culture back to the commoners of my class by performing a humorous pantomime I had learned the night before about a man attempting to repair a sweater. Instead of watching the story I was telling, these ignoramuses were shouting out what I was doing as if it was a game of charades. Oh, well. All geniuses have crosses to bear. I’m just glad they don’t still nail people to them