Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Why some critics find M. Night Shyamalan's movie The Village a great disappointment is beyond me. Well sure the expectations are high and there's the marketing ploy that this film is about some supernatural creatures. Or is it? Like Mr. Shyamalan's other film features, the general plot of this movie was kept a closely guarded secret. True, when I first heard about this movie sometime early last year or late last, last year, the news about it was that he was going to tackle the subject of the dreaded Bogeyman and that's what exactly what he did. The story takes place in 1897 in a small village surrounded by a dense forest. The villagers are led by a council of elders led by Edward Walker (William Hurt) who tries to soothe their frightened townmates about the presence of dead animals killed in a particularly strange manner. What happened was they had entered into an agreement with the strange creatures roaming the forest that they wouldn't enter the woods and the said creatures would also honor the agreement by not entering their clearing. The presence of the dead animals scare the villagers out of their wits thinking they made have done something to break the agreement. To further compound the elders' predilection, a brave young man by the name of Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) asks for permission to break the agreement just this once to go to the next town to buy some additional medicine. They turned down his request because there never was an immediate need for more medicines until Lucius was stabbed almost to death by Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), the town fool who was driven to extreme jealousy by when news of Lucius' bethrodal to Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) reached his ears. Ivy was Noah's self-appointed guardian for so long he couldn't bear to part with her for any reason at all. Faced with this dire emergency Ivy's father, Edward, had no choice but to allow her to go into the woods to get the needed medicine for her fiancé. But before he could let her go on her journey he let her in on a secret he and the other elders have been hiding. A secret that only Ivy was fit to know, a secret that could very well affect the existence of the village and the mysterious creatures living in the woods.

The unshakable feeling of dread present throughout the story that has been the trademark of Mr. Shyamalan in most of his films have been toned down in this one. He focuses more on the blossoming relationship between Lucius and Ivy and the predicament that they're in. Lucius is a quiet young man who was most likely born in that isolated location and has been feeling a sense of restlessness. He longs to go out and explore the other side of the woods but can't do so out of respect to his elders and their long standing covenant with the inhabitants of the woods. Matching him in spirit and guts is Ivy, who became blind as a child but never crippled or hindered by this setback. Bryce stands out among the rest of her fellow actors and actresses because of the way she manages to draw sympathy to her character without making us feel bad about her situation. Everyone did a fine job in this movie and Mr. Shyamalan managed to temper the presence of the big name actors and let the relatively new stars shine on their own. Although the surprise ending was a bit of a letdown to what we all expected it to be, I felt it didn't drag the whole story down the tube. Edward Walker and the other elders plan to escape to a time of innocence was understandable but their methods, borne out of desperation, was still wrong. They thought they could leave everything behind and start anew but what they didn't count on was the fact that they're still dealing with fallible people prone to mistakes. What's sadder still is that although the secret they kept was almost found out they didn't even try to correct their mistakes and instead sought to cover it with another one. They instilled a fear of the unknown among their people, a fear of the bogeymen stalking the woods but what they failed to make them understand is that the ones they should fear the most are those living in their midst.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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