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The Village: again with the reviewing

Located in an unidentified valley, “The Village” is home to a community of wholesome, good spirited puritans who know nothing of money or crime. The villagers of this isolated world have an uneasy truce with unseen creatures living in the woods surrounding the village. After a series of unexplained animal mutilations and the appearance of red marks on the doors of various homes, the villages realise their time of peaceful coexistence with these creatures has come to an end.

Before I continue, I have a confession to make. I make it because I feel that to appreciate this review you need to understand the perspective from which I viewed the film… I believe that M.Night Shyamalan is possibly the greatest storyteller making movies today. His stories are simple narratives – a boy sees dead people, a man has super powers, a man’s faith is tested by extraordinary events – that feature complex characters, ordinary people who must contend with extraordinary events. Shyamalan is a courageous storyteller unafraid to focus on emotion, lingering on characters for long enough for the viewer to appreciate the emotional significance of a particular moment.

This style of film isn’t for everyone. If you prefer alternate rock blasting from your radio then you probably wont get much joy from a classical music station or visa versa. The same understanding of choice should be taken into account when making your purchase at the box-office. As I tried to explain to a friend over the week end: Not every movie made is made for you.

From the very beginning of The Village you’re aware that you are going to be treated to a very well crafted film. There is a sense of isolation, but not confinement, in the way the scenes are shot. Slowly the composition of shots changes: At first you are shown life in the village from almost a documentary style ‘outsider’ perspective. There is a feeling that you are an intruder creeping around the village and that at any point you will be caught by these odd people and chased off with sticks. But as characters begin to emerge from the strangers the composition warms and you are drawn in to their world. Your guard is dropped as their story begins to unfold.

Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) holds the record in a game that the young in the village play. The game is to stand with your back to the woods for as long as you can before the fear of what lurks near by drives you off. It’s said that Lucius’ record shall never be beaten and his bravery is even commented on at one point by village elder Edward Walker (William Hurt). In many ways, Hurt and Phoenix’s characters are opposites. Hurt is something of a father figure to the villagers. He is a prominent member of the council and the proud and loving father of two daughters: Tabitha (Jayne Atkinson) and the younger Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard). Edward and the other village elders fear the potential changes that seem to be approaching, they fear the loss of innocence and peace the villages have always enjoyed. The recent illness and subsequent death of a youngster has Lucius questioning the way the villagers live. Lucius seems to fear that things will not change which inspires him to make an unexpected request to the council.

Phoenix’s portrayal of Lucius is subtle. The character is rich and complex, however the meat of his performance is conveyed in slight gestures and expressions. Hurt on the other hand is shakespearian and delivers a beautifully classical performance full of warmth and power.
Most probably though these performances, along with an almost unrecognizable Sigourney Weaver (as Lucius’ mother Alice) and the simple minded mischief maker Noah Percy (Adrien Brody) will be over looked as all eyes are drawn to the captivating presentation of Ivy by Bryce Dallas Howard. Despite her blindness, Ivy is strong and independent, so much so that you may not even notice that she is blind at first. She ‘sees’, she says, but just not the same way we see. Bryce imbues Ivy with a weathered intelligence and grace well beyond her age and, through the course of the film, she takes the character fluidly from trembling to standing strong in the face of fear. The film very much belongs to Ivy Walker.

There’s every chance that from the moment the film starts you’ll begin trying to guess the twist… Lets face it, this is an M.Night film and everyone knows he’s going to pull a swifty on you at some point. However, if you spend the whole time trying to outsmart the director you’ll run the risk of simply out smarting yourself out of enjoying a good film. Let M.Night do his thing while you sit back and enjoy the stunning cinematography of Roger Deakins (‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’, ‘Ladykillers’) and the typically excellent score by James Newton Howard (‘Unbreakable’, ‘The Fugitive’).

This movie will be added to my DVD collection the day it’s released

If I’m gushing, I apologize. It’s just that in a landscape of big budget movies, the likes of Catwoman, I, Robot and Hellboy, it’s refreshing to see a film made by someone who (to return to the radio analogy) so obviously considers film making to be the classical station, as opposed to the one playing the latest Brittany Spears number.

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    best_movie… elroyriffic.

  • Two weeks later and still thinking about characters’ different permutations and nuanced performances from excellent cast…mission accomplished. At the time I didn’t feel this way; I was initially disappointed in the film. I was watching with preconceptions and I will have to watch it again soon to make a clear judgement. Great film.