“Let the bad colour not be seen. It attracts them.
Never enter the woods. That is where they wait.
Heed the warning bell, for they are coming”
Back in 2004, M. Night Shymalan was still a good director. Good is a vicious understatement, he was a genius. Unfortunately, The Village could be seen as the turning point in M. Night Shyamalan’s career. After The Village, there were movies about the planet being homicidal, women in water as well as little bald airbenders and it seemed that Mr Shymalan had indeed lost his mind. It pains me to say this, but old Shymalan has never recovered. The infamous writer, producer and director had already achieved success as the master story-teller behind The Sixth Sense and Signs. However, this fantasy thriller deserves its own special mention being the last evidence that Shymalan has/had directorial skill.
The most wonderful aspect of all early Shymalan’s early films was that they were far more multidimensional than simple horror stories. Ignorant people are forever saying Signs wasn’t scary and therefore it was “kak”. I will cut you. It is not meant to be scary, it is meant to be a story about faith. Similarly The Village is at essence a profound love story about lovers overcoming fear and adversity. People who want to watch scantily clad women being slaughtered are going to be very disappointed with The Village. Sure they both have EFFING scary moments but they are so much more than that. However, don’t be fooled and don’t get cut, The Village is a story about love.
Love is blind
“What good is it to tell you you are in my every thought from the time I wake? What good can come from my saying that I sometimes cannot think clearly or do my work properly? What gain can rise of my telling you the only time I feel fear as others do is when I think of you in harm? That is why I am on this porch, Ivy Walker. I fear for your safety before all others. And yes, I will dance with you on our wedding night.”
So let’s break it down. Set in the late 19th century, a small community lives in relative peace surrounded, quite literally, by fear and the woods. A truce between the villagers and those they do not speak of is what sustains this way of life. Basically, hooded bush-monsters that have a thing for the colour red, terrorize the townsfolk into waylaying their travel plans. So the town’s vibe is secluded, safe and wholesome – free of greed and violence; or is it? The menacing plot unfolds as Joaquin Phoenix’s blind lover ventures into the woods to gather medicine from surrounding ‘towns’ and all the secrets start to unravel. Intriguing stuff.
The bush monster cometh
So then there’re these elders – leaders of the village who claim to have the best intentions of the community in mind. No one does repressed authority quite like William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver. These elders breed. However, their children aren’t that easy to control. Lucius Hunt (played by the quietly brilliant Joaquin Phoenix) is the austere antithesis of the fear-based society. He is brave, sincere and honourable. Ivy Walker (The Help’s Bryce Dallas Howard) is the blind protagonist who ‘sees’ the world differently. Youthful and enchanting, Ivy embodies the innocence that the elders cherish in their village. They fall in love, it’s beautiful. Alas it’s short-lived.
Ivy Walker sure has a tough time
Indicative of their love and perhaps The Village’s strongest moment is the safety drill scene. This scene stands out as one of Shyamalan’s most beautifully crafted. Allow me to summarise:
- The warning bell
- Widespread panic
- Ivy’s out-stretched hand in the dark
- Sister pleading hysterically
- Grunting, cloaked bush monster approaches
- …the music soars and Lucius swoops in at the last minute. With their hands clasped they retreat underground. Very moving stuff.
Sister just wants Ivy to come inside
Adrien Brody plays Noah Percy – a developmentally challenged Ivy admirer. Brody does good. His performance of this pivotal character is deeply unnerving. It’s because of his actions that our blind heroine is thrust into the forbidden woods and beyond. Hysterically, she struggles to escape her fears as Shyamalan characteristically plays with our perception of what is real. You cannot help feeling sorry for the lost blind girl as she is stalked by monstrous beasts in the cold dark woods. The lengths Ivy will go through to save Lucius is truly touching. The love that drives her is awe-inspiring and makes this Shyamalan film one of my all time favourites.
This situation seems dire
If we know anything about Shymalan, expect a twist or two. Twisty, twisty.
Additionally, James Newton Howard’s Oscar nominated score was poignant and unsettling whilst enhancing these intense moments.
Listen to the beautiful soundtrack. Listen to it
For more Village-y goodness check out the trailer!