M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village was a film that started the downward slide in his films. I saw this film opening weekend in the theater and remember my audience not liking it mainly because he sold them a different film. I found it enjoyable and didn’t see what everyone else was complaining about. Re-watching the film now, I still enjoy the twist, but now notice some odd choices with camera shots and acting choices.
The Village is still pretty compelling
The Village is set in, well, a small village surrounded by woods. In those woods are “Those we do not speak of”, which are humanoid animal type creatures that wear red, the bad color. There is not a distinctive time established, but it appears to be in the 1700s. Essentially, the creatures keep to themselves as long as the people of the village follow specific rules. It creates some great tensions, but is ultimately why the film was hated by the casual movie goer upon its release.
The trailer markets a horror movie with monsters that stalk the innocent citizens of the village. Twist number one of the film is that the creatures aren’t real. They are used to keep the people in the village inline and not question the elders. Watching this film today feels very allegorical as fear of what exists outside our borders is driving much of the political agenda. The question of the dangers that exist being real or made up by the leaders is definitely being debated now and adds to the story in the film as a result.
Why it’s not perfect or his best
The issues in the film fall partially on Bryce Dallas Howard’s portrayal of a blind girl and lead protagonist of the film. There is something in her performance that doesn’t work. It could be that sometimes she seems less blind than others. She is very strong at moments and extremely weak at others. Ivy Walker (Howard) has been through the emotional ringer in this film, but it still seems like her character is erratic.
There are also moments in the film where Shyamalan’s perspectives feel odd in a way that isn’t easily explained. For example, in a quiet conversation with Edward Walker (William Hurt) and his other daughter, Kitty Walker (Judy Greer), that is filmed from very far away in a long shot. There doesn’t appear to be anything going on that the audience needs to see from this perspective and Shyamalan never cuts into the conversation. It is rather windy in the scene and it’s possible that they used this take to make ADR easier in post if the sound was bad due to the weather.
The twist that comes at the end is the one where people really seemed to lose interest. Often people compare Shyamalan’s movies to the real world, which is a mistake as films don’t ever claim to be set there. His worlds have some reflection of the world we know, but there is always an element altered to make it follow it’s own rules. He usually establishes them and upholds them. That said, it seems that people should give The Village another watch and it earns the Decent Watch rating.