Dir: M. Night Shyamalan
Release Date: 2004
“A series of events tests the beliefs of a small, isolated, countryside village"
For this review, we welcome a brand new, up and coming reviewer.
Lucas Ward, a 17 year old student, has submitted this as part of his Film Studies coursework and, as philanthropic as we so very clearly are, plus acknowledging this is much more insightful than most of what we usually offer out, we've jumped at the chance to assist.
Here is Lucas Ward's review of The Village:
The Village is a 2004 M. Night Shyamalan film with a star-studded cast, including Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt.
The premise is simple: A secluded group of people living in a small countryside village, live in constant fear of ‘Those We Do Not Speak Of’ (who the elders ironically seem to mention all too frequently) that they believe to be living in the surrounding forest.
The execution of said ‘simple premise’ however, leaves much to be desired.
Coming off the back of his success with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, Shyamalan had built up a fanbase fond of his supernatural plots and unexpected twists and endings. The Village therefore is considered to have been the turning point in the director’s career.
Following this movie, he went on to make The Happening, a fantastically bad film starring Mark Wahlberg, and the now infamous The Last Airbender big screen adaptation.
The film very much feels like Shyamalan’s intention was to shift from his successful thriller writings and create a love story between Phoenix and Howard’s character, before being told by higher-ups on the production side that the film would underperform were it to not include a classic M. Night mystery twist.
Fun Fact: Sigourney Weaver allegedly suffered nightmares for two weeks after reading the script.
Unfortunately, the end product was a film that seems unsure as to what genre it wishes to conform to.
Were The Village to be looked at as a romance, it would be considered a success.
The film, for the large part, tells the love story between Ivy and Lucius. Despite this however, The Village is not in fact billed as a period romance but instead as a mystery thriller.
Whilst at times the film does lean into the stereotypes of the intended genre with its frequent use of low-key lighting, an isolated location and haunting score, fundamentally this movie simply doesn’t quite sit right.
Being released only three years following the 9/11 attacks, you can see how the terrible events of that day and the immediate aftermath affected Shyamalan when it came to making this film.
At its core, this is a film about a group of people who live in constant fear of the ‘outsiders’ that stage frequent attacks on their home.
The impact that real world societal and cultural behaviours had on the making of this film are inescapable, which just further adds to the disappointment caused by the finished product.
Fun Fact: Director, Shyamalan, put the entire cast through a 19th century "boot camp" in order for them to get a good feel for the time period.
Elsewhere, the way in which Christopher Tellefsen edits this film irritates me slightly.
There are numerous scenes that appear to go on for much longer than necessary, with characters seemingly walking a marathon with no dialogue at all, coupled with far too many dull conversations that make up the majority of the film.
I think Phoenix’s Lucius sums up perfectly to Bryce Dallas Howard’s Ivy with the line, 'Why can you not stop saying what is in your [head]'.
This, counteracted with a splattering of random, sudden cuts that would work nearly anywhere else in the film except for where it is, makes for a disappointing final product.
The film does have its positives however. The performance of Bryce Dallas Howard may be one of her earliest but it is certainly one of her best.
Fun Fact: Kirsten Dunst was originally cast as Ivy but dropped out to star in Elizabethtown, being replaced by Howard who was cast without audition after Shyamalan saw her perform on stage.
Howard's character of Ivy, the blind daughter of William Hurt’s character Edward, appears to start the film as a secondary character, seemingly created for the sole intention of to be the love interest of Joaquin Phoenix’s Lucius, but emerges as the main protagonist as the film progresses.
Whilst the casting of a seeing actress as a blind character is a choice that in a modern Hollywood would likely be met with criticism, a 2004 audience would be forgiven for genuinely believing that a then relatively unknown Bryce Dallas Howard too had a visual impairment.
Whilst at times she seems to be all too able in her surroundings for a blind person, this can be explained away as a muted metaphor for how familiar her character is within her secluded community.
Howard’s performance, alongside that of Adrien Brody as Noah, are what truly carry this movie. Adrien Brody expertly portrays the mentally disabled character of Noah through a mix of body language and minimal dialogue.
Even in the film’s opening scene, his transition from awkward, hysterical laughter to a serious and concerned facial expression conveys the conflicting thoughts racing through his character’s mind, especially as this combination reoccurs as the film hits its peak.
Behind the scenes, this film’s saving grace is its cinematography.
Oscar award-winning Roger Deakins has his talents wasted on this film, a fact he kind of admits saying he found Shyamalan’s storyboards ‘a bit restrictive and the adherence to them a little extreme’, comparing them to those of the Coen brothers, with whom he had worked on eight feature films previously, and concedes that they would at least allow for ideas to change when on set, unlike M. Night Shyamalan.
Despite this, he still manages to expertly create an eerie atmosphere to accompany this film’s period thriller intentions.
Whether it be his exterior shots accompanied by haunting, dull natural light or the way he utilises the small village built especially for the film, Deakins does not fail to curate another cinematography masterclass.
The only other positive to be taken away from this film is the haunting score from James Newton Howard, which earned him an Academy Award nomination.
His music is the prefect underlie to the infrequent moments of tension in this period romance, ‘thriller’ hybrid.
The composer’s fourth collaboration with director M. Night Shyamalan is triumphant in its simplicity. It is able to be both delightful in times of love and mournful in times of fear.
Despite the tiresome length of some scenes, the use of the score makes them slightly more bearable.
This, combined with Deakin’s slow, zooming camera movement, makes the film at times both visibly, and certainly audibly, pleasing.
Whilst The Village isn’t one of director M. Night Shyamalan’s best films, it’s certainly nowhere near his worst.
The film’s glaring errors in both plot and editing, not to mention the two (?!) disappointingly obvious plot twists, lead to an overall underwhelming experience.
Saying this, what the film doesn’t do badly, it does very well and the people I watched it with were oblivious to the twists until they were unveiled.
James Newton Howard’s score and the performances from the ensemble cast allows for a pleasant distraction from the film’s weak points.
For anyone looking for a period romance with an admirable female protagonist, who isn’t easily frightened, then this film is for you.
If, however, you are a fan of mysterious thrillers with multiple twists and turns, I
would instead point you in the direction of M. Night Shyamalan’s earlier works.
We would like to thank Lucas for his contribution.
We hope you continue to review movies and would welcome you back here any time to add a little maturity to the page.
We couldn't let Lucas leave without asking him to complete our brief but all important questionnaire. Here are those vital answers....
FAVOURITE CHARACTER: Whilst acknowledging the wealth of talent in this film, I saw a character on IMDB listed as 'Man with the raised eyebrows' played by Scott Sowers. This alone wins my vote. Thank you, Scott Sowers.
FAVOURITE MOMENT: M. Night Shyamalan’s brief yet inevitable cameo appearance as a park ranger
FAVOURITE LINE: Ivy Walker : "Sometimes we don't do things we want to do so that others won't know we want to do them." Sorry, what?
FAVOURITE DEATH: Adrien Brody dying from falling in a hole