Since I saw Signs I lost interest in M. Night Shyamalan. The recent critical bashing of The Last Airbender and my recent bashing on The Happening shows that M. Night is very much out of favor with audiences and the more intelligent studio executives. After my screening of The Happening I swore that I would never view a M. Night film again. A brief discussion with a friend urged me to see The Village, saying that it is a misunderstood film.
No, it is well understood that M. Night’s typical excellent premise with sordid execution continues. The Village begins in 1897 at the funeral of a child. Unknown creatures are held at bay in the surrounding forest while the village enjoys their safe harbor. Dead animal skins are littered around the village prompting worries. Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) and Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) begin a love affair and their expectations of marriage is known throughout the village. When Noah (Adrien Brody), a man with developmental problems stabs Lucius, Ivy enters the forest to look for towns outside the village for medicine and other supplies.
Typically, I would go further into the details of the plot. But it is unnecessary. The ‘twists’ in this film are by-far some of the most disappointing moments in cinema. It is wholly a cop-out that even any form of a deus-ex-machina would be far more appreciated. Once again, M. Night does indeed splash his particular style all over this film, but never splashes the screen with interesting plot or dialogue worth following.
The color red is a color that M. Night uses often, particularly in The Sixth Sense. It is a a color that has many intentional meanings; seduction, love, hate, and anger. Red is the feared color in the film. Red paint is splashed upon the doors of the village and it explained that the color attracts the creatures of the village.
Adrian Brody and Bryce Dallas Howard were the stand outs in this film. Howard took the lead of this film from Phoenix nearly half-way through, a call to action that was passed from her love directly to her. Brody’s portrayal of a mentally abnormal person is perfect and does carry some realistic plot twists. I have a feeling that these two actors carried out their character with little interference with M. Night.
The Village, in my humble opinion, is an allegory for terrorism. Released in 2004, during the height of the United States’ two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we see a village dictated by secretive elders who claim that beyond their village is danger. The need to shelter and protect the village from outside dangers is directly related to how the American government releases information to the media, by terrorizing their own citizens. Keeping them scared, on the “right” side, and in control
While this film is filled with many problems, M. Night is still able to provoke discussion on themes in his films. It is a shame that his later films have such ideas that are masked by horrific storytelling. There is a reason why M. Night continues to make films, it is because nearly all his films have had some sort of positive return. The fact that his twist endings—even if they are increasingly becoming poorer and poorer—still resonates and creates mass appeal with the common American audience.