It takes a Village and a great director to make a classic
Revealing much of The Village would spoil one of the few satisfying moments of attending movies these days; the seemingly old-fashioned notion of discovering a suspense film keeps your heart pounding while giving your brain an aerobic workout.
Of course, there is only one writer/director/producer who has made it his sole mission to restore such an experience to a cynical movie-going public. As he has done quite successfully three times before, M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs ) again hits a veritable home run with his latest ,The Village, a film that continues to illustrate the gifted filmmakers devotion to Hitchcock and offers more evidence that in the realm of creepy conundrums, no one else’s films even come close.
Some will maintain after they have seen Shyamalan’s latest puzzle that they saw the twist coming all along. Those people are not to be trusted. For anyone familiar with The Twilight Zone or even the original Planet of the Apes there will be some clues as to the mystery surrounding a group of 19th century gothic villagers who go to great lengths to protect their society. But to know exactly what Shyamalan has in mind here, both in the superb development of his compelling narrative and his broader aim at societal allegory, very few will divine.
What is it the villagers fear outside of their small Amish-like community (so much so that they construct watchtowers, boundary flags and warning bells)? Why the occasionally awkward deliberation of their dialogue? From what secrets do the elders strive to protect the other villagers? And whats the deal with the medieval cloaks of yellow and the foggy gray tint of the lighting, evoking an imagery right out of a Led Zeppelin album cover?
Once again, Shyamalan applies his gift of storytelling, superb intimate framing technique, along with a spooky soundtrack created by veteran James Newton Howard to keep a vice-like grip on his audience taunting and tweaking it with the conceit of a filmmaker who completely understands what makes us go jump in the night.
Inspired casting appears to be another of Shyamalans skills as The Village is filled with excellent actors including William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson, Cherry Jones and Adrien Brody. Newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard, (daughter of director Ron Howard) in her film debut, nearly steals the show, however. Her performance is moving enough in a pivotal role that requires both fear and compassion that Shyamalans first choice for the part, Kirsten Dunst, in no way loooms aas a potential improvement on Howards interpretation.
Neither should anyone buy into the idea that once the mystery begins to the film falls apart. A tribute to this splendid film is that once the box is open, whats left inside offers plenty to care about.
The Village demonstrates that what a film doesn’t show is often scarier than what it does. And tears and fears can successfully coexist in a film that wears its blood-red heart on the sleeve of an amazing filmmaker.
Rated PG-13 For scenes of violence and frightening situations. Agree or disagree?