The perplexing, enigmatic storyline of “The Village,” requires multiple viewings before critiquing it. So, the day “The village” opened, I went to see it for a second time. It was every bit as good as the first viewing, possibly even better, because it gave you a chance to stop jumping out of your seat and actually concentrating on the film’s subtle nuances as well as the foibles and strengths of it’s characters.
“The Village”, directed by M. Night Shamalayan, the man who brought us “I see Dead People” and now brings us, “I see Red People.” The first scene begins with a shot of a funeral, a small white casket, and a man crying over the death of his son. It cuts to a shot of the people in the village having dinner; we hear a strange sound from the woods and a little blonde girl in a bonnet looks towards the woods with a scared expression on her face. It continues to cut to different scenes, village girls sweeping the steps happily and twirling around, then fearfully seeing a pretty red flower and hastily burying it. We see a bit of the life in this quaint village before things go awry.
The woods around the village are inhabited by a race of red-cloak-wearing creatures. There is a kind of truce with these creatures; they don’t venture into the valley as long as the villagers don’t venture into the woods. But when headstrong Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix), wants to cross the woods to go into the town to get medicines, he is vehemently opposed by the village elders, but stays strong and steadfast. When he goes out to the border between the woods and the town to paint yellow lines on the borders to reinforce them (Yellow is the safe colour) he steps into the woods - overstepping the boundaries -- and all hell breaks loose.
One reason this movie is so exquisitely good is because of the acting. Adrian Brody gives a heartbreaking performance as the mentally impaired Noah, who loves Ivy, the blind daughter of one of the village elders. Bryce Dallas Howard, a newcomer to the big screen (although she did a lot of stage work, including playing Rosalind in a production of As You Like It) is Ivy, who, although blind, sees auras and is extraordinarily brave and kind. She is a friend to Noah, and throughout the movie you can see her love for Lucius building. William Hurt is wonderful as one of the village elders who questions the decisions he is making. Sigourney Weaver plays Lucius’s mother, who is in turmoil about allowing her son to venture into the woods. Usually, in scary movies like this, the acting takes second priority to the special effects. But in this movie, the character development helps the eeriness along.
Another great thing about this movie is the fact that all of the scary bits tie into the story. They aren’t just tacked on to give you cheap thrills and to make you jump. They complement the story; and if you took away the creepiness, it would still be a good story.
And then there is the twist. No, I’m not going to reveal it to you, but it literally made my jaw drop. And there is not one twist -- but many. Just when you think you’ve got “The Village” down, it continues to surprise you to no end.
This is Natalie Johnson for movie Magazine.
© 2004 - Natalie Johnson - Air Date: 7/30/04