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THE VILLAGE   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Monday, 06 September 2004
"Try your very best not to scream... "



In his first post 9/11 film, M. Night Shamalayan gives us an intriguing tale - and one that's perhaps better in concept than execution. Ever since "Sixth Sense", he's been giving us films with a twist in the tail. Problem is, it's that twist that people expect now, and when you're spending the entire movie trying to second guess a plot twist because they're always there in his movies, then you need to be something less predictable. It's just too predictable to have a plot twist nowadays.


Which is "The Village"'s downfall. Yes, it's got a plot twist. And it's a doozy, but yet again, the plot twist threatens to overwhelm the rest of the movie.Just like all his movies. And the worst thing is, that because M. Night Shamalyan, we're expecting it. We're expecting things not to be exactly how they appear to be. Which is exactly how things happen.


The Plot set up is quite simple: It's Covington Woods, Pennsylvania, 1897, and the inhabitants of the village maintain an uneasy truce with "those who we cannot speak of" ; the inhabitants of the woods. They keep the peace with a simple rule: If we do not go into the wood, they do not enter the village.These monsters, they skin animals and leave the corpses to rot, to be discovered. They will exact a revenge if taking lives.


But when the monsters appear in the village at night, daubing each door with a single red mark, denoting the truce has been broken.....and when Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) is attacked, requiring help from the outside world, then the truce must be broken. One of them must go to the towns, everything  they have turned their back on. And it's this that threatens to bring everything The Village stands for crashing down catastrophically.....


Much like his previous films, M Night Shamalayan has crafted a slow, sedate, and intricate tale, slowly building up tension as the implications of what has gone on before start to unfold.And about half an hour from the end, just as the twist is first revealed, things start to crumble around the edges. And then there's another twist, and another twist....and it just gets tedious and predictable. The twists (the Monsters are real!  Not, they're not! Yes they are! Etc.) become like a pantomime.


Though we never see it, I'm convinced that any second that Bill Drummond will come storming out of the woods with an M-16 , a cigar and a long coat as those monsters in the red suits attack. At last we know what he did with the missing million - he did burn it, but claimed it back on the insurance and bought a wildlife reserve and set up an 18th century community in the present day an a weird arthouse experiment, a KLF kibbutz if you will, where occasionally they relieve the boredom by sticking on the old Monsters of Mu suits and scaring people ; there's even the dead animals being left around willy nilly to terrorise people to boot.


Oh, how the work of M. Night Shamalyan has degenerated into ripping off the KLF. Red suits, monsters, a land lost in the aegis of time, and dead animals.


But it looks gorgeous, and wonderful. But if the styles look somehow odd and wrong for 1897, well, you might be onto something....these look almost as if they are deliberate mistakes. If however, you never knew history,how would you know? Eh?


Interesting and Thoughtful, The Village has parallels to the situation in the US after 9/11 : A community that scared of consequences and the real world, retreats into itself, isolated, alone, almost frightened. Whenever the outside world is mentioned, it is wicked', presented as evil, where bad things happen. Only by isolating itself, can the village be kept separate, safe from these evil and wicked things. However, the moral is clear: by hiding away, by retreating, we cannot escape the evil and deception within. Especially poignant when bearing in mind that all the very reasons they have retreated and isolated themselves from the townfolk are inherent in everyone, and can resurface at any time.


Casting is exemplary : William Hurt for the first time in nearly 2 decades seems to be acting again as opposed to just going through the motions, Adrien Brody is perfectly cast as the village idiot Noah, and Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of Oscar-winning film director Ron Howard) plays the blind Ivy Walker, friend of the well meaning but reticent Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix).


Ultimately,"The Village" is a great film, slow and purposeful. Perhaps it's not got enough car chases for many - certainly the audience of the screening I was at where most of those attending seemed more interested in taking the piss and comparing baseball caps than watching the film - But its' a step away from the dumbification of cinema into something more intelligent, purposeful, yet artistic, moody, and purposeful. But though it is let down by a succession of mildy predictable twists, it leaves us with an important question: like the film itself, which is itself not scared of asking questions, where will M Night Shamalayan go next? What does the future hold?


We will see. 


The Village
Written by Guest on 2005-02-13 17:54:45
Any time actors take to the stage or screen, the audience must suspend some disbelief. Aside from that, I thought The movie was excellent. I'm relieved that the television watching simpletons whose comments I've read didn't like it!

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