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I like clever movies, and I like scary movies. And because of my
disposition I already spent money on two very awful movies that came
from Hollywood this year: abysmal "Godsend" and at first glance
promising but ultimately stupid and disappointing "The Forgotten".
That's why I proceeded with care to the latest Shyamalan's work: "The village". The trailer looked promising: a desolate turn-of-the-last-century village, sorrounded by the forest in which some horrible creatures live. Promising, but being careful lately, I first checked around the net...and was amazed to see a big load of negative reviews. Roger Ebert for instance, whose opinion I usually respect, gave it a horribly low grade! Great.
Nevertheless, I chose to see it, and I must say was quite pleasantly surprised. Here, ladies and gentlemen, you have a very nicely shot, atmospheric thriller with great cast, good story and a few finishing touches of Shyamalan's cleverness (which could be simply called brilliant when compared with the latest scripts that the Hollywood vomits over its audience!).
Why the lousy reviews? Well, there are basically two kinds of people that will want to see this movie: first the horror fans, who will expect a gruesome and chilling and potentially bloody tale, and the puzzle-movie fans, who are more or less not interested in the movie itself, but in "solving the latest Shyamalan's puzzle" of what the movie is all about.
The horror crowd will be disappointed. There are scares in this movie, but way too much characterization and drama for their taste. As for the other crowd, well people, the twist is there, but this time it's very guessable (although Shyamalan still has some tricks up his sleeve, as you'll see).
It seems that Shyamalan will always live in the shadow of his masterpiece "The 6th sense". People still remember getting their socks knocked off with its powerful ending, and keep expecting that to happen again with every following movie. What's worse, Hollywood realized that the twists are trendy, so lately we have lots of movies with a final twist, most of which are stupid/cheap/illogical. People today set their expectations too damn high, especially if they see Shyamalan's name at the movie poster.
This movie is great. The atmosphere is great, the cast is fantastic, and what I mostly love about it, it's clever. It's logical. And whatever you say about it, it's CONSISTENT. Compared to the other Hollywood crap we are getting served lately, this is a VERY good movie.
Watch this, but not as a puzzle, but as a great movie in itself.
Well, just my 2 cents.
M. Night Shyamalan definitely did himself a disservice in releasing
"The Sixth Sense". Brilliant as the film was, its "twist" ending was so
powerful that audiences the world over expected nothing less from the
talented young director. And so, Shyamalan has been trying with every
single outing since to recapture that sense of awe.
Although many have made scathing remarks about the ending of "The Village", it is perhaps his most perfect since "The Sixth Sense"; though by no means a huge surprise, it nevertheless settles into the ambiance and leaves the film with a tinge of melancholy that belies the trailers.
It is a film of startling imagery, with a theme of 9/11-inspired innocence versus corruption that creeps into the mind and stays there until it unfolds over and over again. Many have called the acting "wooden", but a second viewing of the film would change that opinion; it is, after all, part of the point. Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron's daughter) lights up the screen in an astounding premiere performance as the blind Ivy, Adrien Brody delivers a searing portrayal of longing as the dim-witted Noah and Joaquin Phoenix heightens the moody tone with his strong, silent-type Lucius. "The Village" is about these people, this community living in fear, not the monsters of which they have been warned; it is about the psychology of fear rather than a horrific portrayal of it.
It must be said that the only thing wrong with "The Village" was the promotion for it. The adverts made it seem like a thrill-ride of Gothic horror, like the scariest film yet to be filmed - and audiences were running in their droves to catch yet another Shyamalan Twist. Instead of investing their emotions in the characters, viewers kept their distance in the knowledge that they would be hoodwinked, that the entire thing was a set-up to catch them out anyway. Wrong as this is, it was ultimately the undoing of the movie; had it been promoted as a thoughtful, stark, moody piece of film-making, then both the critics and the public would have been satisfied.
This is not a film about The Twist Ending, but about wrapping its beauty around your mind, and the quiet, haunting finale is what helps to keep it there.
The film The Village, was quite unfortunately Mal advertised, this being in Greece of course. Instead of showing the ingenuity of the plot and the sort utopia created, it depicts a cheap horror story. This accomplished two very inopportune things. Firstly it attracted quite a unimaginative unintelligent crowd of people, who were, of course, displeased by the outcome of the story. Secondly it didn't allow the more imaginative more interpretive crowd to enjoy the quite complacent plot and Walden Two like utopia ultimately falling apart the sole reason people never left the place was due to their fear of some unknown creature.It was well done, had a good group of productive actors and a very suspenseful plot and deserves better reviews than it is given.
I went to see M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" today.
First things first... I won't even discuss a SINGLE aspect of the plot, here, so you can read this safely. I will say this: If you plan to see the movie, do not read a single review (besides mine!). As with most of Shyamalan's films, the less you know about the plot going in, the better.
As far as the quality of the film... it is solid. Beautifully directed, well acted, dramatic, scary, sometimes funny, and with some great plot twists. It is not as good as "The Sixth Sense", but it's probably not fair to keep comparing Shyamalan's work to his first big hit, one of the best psychological horror films ever made. A director could work his entire career and never make a SINGLE film as good as "The Sixth Sense", let alone recapture that movie's amazing brilliance.
But, I hear you asking, is "The Village" better than "Unbreakable" and "Signs" (Shyamalan's second and third films)??? Well, that depends on what you thought of those films. Personally, I'd probably say that it is a better film than those two. At the very least it is more sophisticated, with stronger themes, a much bigger and better cast, and more subtle surprises than in those two films.
"The Village" continues Shyamalan's pattern of there being twists in the plot, but this time there are SEVERAL of them and they occur sporadically throughout the film... not one big one at the end. You WILL be surprised by the film, but don't expect to be bowled over.
I would describe this as his most subtle film, and also as more of a character study than a horror film. The characters here are very rich, and their interactions and relationships with one another are very rewarding in big and small ways. The acting is phenomenal, most noticeably by Academy Award winner Adrian Brody and Joaquin Phoenix. But first time actress Bryce Dallas Howard (Ron Howard's daughter), William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver all give solid performances as well.
"The Village" is a character study of how a community and individuals respond under pressure and fear. And while it has elements of horror, I'm not even sure I would describe it as a horror film.
But don't get me wrong, there are some real scary moments in the film... just don't go in expecting a roller coaster ride. While I was watching it, I kept thinking about some of the better episodes of The Twilight Zone that had a few thrills but left you thinking about human nature more than anything.
Go see "The Village", but bring someone with you.
I don't think I've ever been more shocked by how much I liked a film. I
had very low expectations when I decided to watch "The Village,"
because I knew how much critics had panned it. I'm not saying that I
regard the consensus of the critics as sacrosanct. But the movies I
love are rarely ones that have earned critical scorn, so by the law of
probability I doubted that this one would be any good. Besides, I had
noticed a steadily downward slope in the quality of M. Night
Shyamalan's films since "The Sixth Sense." When "The Village" was
released and subsequently panned, it seemed to fit the pattern that I
myself had noticed. So I didn't go and see the film. Only recently did
I take a look at it on cable, more out of curiosity than anything else.
And alas, I found the first fifteen minutes rather slow. The movie has a lot of characters, and it doesn't quickly establish which ones are the most important. All we see is this primitive nineteenth-century village in the midst of woods that the villagers believe to be haunted by ominous, sentient creatures who will not harm the people as long as they don't set foot in the woods. The villagers have all sorts of rituals to protect themselves from attack, such as avoiding the color red (what is it with Shyamalan and red?) and wearing yellow hoods. But rules are meant to be broken, and a quiet, mysterious young man played by Joaquin Phoenix wants to journey into the woods so that he can visit "the towns" on the other side, which boast superior medicine. Among other things, he wonders if he'll find a cure for his mentally handicapped friend (Adrien Brody). In the meantime, he's falling in love with the blind girl (Bryce Dallas Howard) whose role in the plot will expand as the movie progresses.
The love story between Phoenix and Howard is well-handled and believable, transcending the romantic clichés. The two characters seem to possess a common understanding and don't have to talk much in order for us to feel the developing bond between them. But what they do say to each other is intriguing. My favorite line is "Sometimes we don't do things we want to do so that others won't know we want to do them." Their personalities also transcend stereotype, particularly with Phoenix: while stoic and courageous, he's also shy and withdrawn, as revealed in scenes where he passes letters to the public council instead of speaking in front of them. His ultimate significance to the story turns the heroic convention on its head.
Everyone in the village speaks in an oddly formal manner, using big words and avoiding contractions. The accents are American, but the diction is like that of a nineteenth-century English novel. Amazingly, the actors make this language sound natural as it rolls off their tongues. The cast includes several familiar faces: William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson, and the aforementioned Phoenix and Brody. But the star of the film is the as-yet unknown Howard, who delivers a performance so compelling that it's a shame the film was trashed by critics.
Much of the film concerns the relationships of the characters in the village, but the mystery of the creatures also dominates the plot. This is more of a quietly creepy "Twilight Zone"-style tale than outright horror. Like Shyamalan's other films, it ultimately carries a message of hope and optimism. But Shyamalan does not forget his horror roots. No other Hollywood filmmaker today is better at crafting scenes where a character is being haunted by an evil presence. These scenes work because of Shyamalan's acute sense of how nightmares feel. Like all skilled horror directors, he knows not to focus on the monster itself but on the panicked reaction of the character being stalked.
While the use of a blind character is hardly a new device, Shyamalan handles the scenes with Howard in an interesting way. Instead of the usual approach of teasing the audience by showing exactly what the blind character doesn't see, he practically makes us blind along with her. He has the camera follow her as she walks, so that we don't see what's in front of her. We soon realize that we are seeing little more than what she is able to discern about her surroundings. In crucial scenes, we are effectively almost as much in the dark as she is.
I cannot say much more about the plot without ruining the movie's surprises, which are abundant. Critics dismissed "The Village" as a crude exercise in plot manipulation. I couldn't disagree more. While I'm not certain that the logistics of the plot work in every detail, most of the criticisms I have heard reflect a superficial reading of the story.
The film has the same basic structure that Shyamalan always uses, where we are swept up in the events and only at the end do we find out what the movie was truly about. From there, we have to think backwards to understand the ultimate meaning of the story. I have seen the movie three times now, noticing new things each time. The social themes make me think that Shyamalan is familiar with Joseph Campbell's works on primitive societies and the origin of drama. The back story is very well thought out compared to that of the average thriller, and I feel some disappointment that more people aren't able to appreciate it. The beauty and genius of this film is a well-kept secret.
The Village is set in a small, rural community living in a kind of 19th
Century self-supporting agrarianism. Woods surround the town, and the
villagers maintain a strict perimeter, as there are creatures in the
woods with whom they've reached a truce so long as the borders are not
breached. Tension mounts as the creatures start breaking their normal
pattern, and one of the villagers, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix), seeks
permission from the town elders to travel through the woods, to the
towns and "those we don't speak of", so he can acquire medicine for his
For anyone seriously interested in the art of film, The Village is worth a viewing just for its cinematography and score. That's not to say that the story isn't good. It's a captivating tale of a very odd small town, complete with a twist, as is characteristic of director M. Night Shyamalan. The twist may not be as shattering here as it was in some of his previous films, such as The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2000), but it is still a change that catalyzes an eye-opening recontextualization and reassessment of the previous material, making the film and the final resolution of the story even more poignant. It is also interesting to note the many possible metaphorical readings, ranging from political insularism to religion, or even more literal comparisons to social and geographic segregation (from ethnic enclaves to gated communities).
Shyamalan could be said to have a directorial gimmick, although that might not be the best word because it's usually taken negatively, and I don't mean it to undervalue his approach. He makes genre films in the guise of realist dramas. So far, all of his films since he hit it big with The Sixth Sense have used this interesting device, each in a different genre. The Sixth Sense was a horror/ghost story. Unbreakable was a comic book film. Signs was sci-fi. The Village is fantasy/adventure. It also has some horror elements (as do Unbreakable and Signs).
Part of Shyamalan's genius as a filmmaker is that he can achieve the usual responses associated with those genres using such unusual, relatively mundane and realist material. For example, in The Village, he is able to build up an incredible amount of suspense in relation to two very simple things--flowers of a particular color, and beginning a walk into the woods. A simple walk into the woods is also the beginning of an adventure just as grand as any depiction of a quest for the Holy Grail, say. And the ensuing plot developments, although very ordinary on one level, have a profound, redemptive effect. Many of the most important developments in the climax aren't even directly stated; they're just subtly implied in what we're shown, yet they all work extremely well. While Shyamalan's style may require some adjustments for viewers more accustomed to chaotic, MTV-paced genre films, or on the flipside, for viewers less accustomed to elements of fantasy in their films, it is worth altering your preconceptions about pacing and content.
The cast is excellent. I'm not usually the biggest fan of William Hurt, but I even loved his performance. Joaquin Phoenix and particularly Bryce Dallas Howard are amazing. The film wouldn't have worked without the right person in either actor's roles. Both were perfect choices. There is also a wonderful, very slight surreal quality throughout most of the film shown in the behavior of the villagers towards each other.
James Newton Howard's score may be his best to date in a very long list of credits. The music always provides just the right atmosphere, sense of wonder/mystery, pathos and suspense. Roger Deakins' cinematography is equally brilliant, capturing a slight eeriness, sense of foreboding and comfort all at the same time, and with an ingenious use of colors. Much of the film leans towards rich yellow/orange hues and tints, with strong green accents in the grasses and trees. Whenever red is introduced, it is appropriately intense. The framing of shots and staging of scenes is equally impressive.
I know that this film has had its detractors, but I cannot see why. For my tastes, The Village is yet another masterpiece from a very creative, innovative filmmaker.
This movie absolutely blew my mind. I grew up in a small village in Central Illinois. My village is on the map solely because of the Amish community which has established itself in the rural area around the town. "The Village" is reminiscent of all things strived for by the Amish community. Whilst ridiculed by many and misunderstood by most of the rest, the Amish and the community in "The Village" long for the same things: a return to simpler times when the good in life was much more prolific. Although it could be argued that the members of the village have their ideals based upon and rooted in fear, that doesn't differ drastically from many ideals held throughout the world. The negative aspects of our ideals may not be as obvious and spelled-out to us like those of in "The Village," but they remain similar none-the-less. "The Village" is a real thinker's movie and I commend M. Night Shyamalan for another remarkable movie. I can't wait to see what's next.
It's not what you think it is. It's not horrific. It's not gory. It is
however a very well written and played thriller drama, with a fantastic
love story woven into it to keep it from getting overbearing.
I've seen the 6th Sense and thought it was fantastic, and passed on Signs because I'd already been sick of alien movies by then, though it looks like I should see it.
I went into this film without preconceptions about M. Night Shyamalan or his previous work. I wanted to see a good scary movie. Good it was. Scary it was less. Don't go into it expecting to get horrified, and you won't leave the movie upset about it.
I liked this movie a lot, largely because it caught me by surprise at many points. It's too easy to spoil the movie if I mention why though, so I'll just say you have to see it for yourself.
The acting, particularly by Bryce Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, and William Hurt, was played well with the right subtlety and nuance to make the characters believable.
Howard's role as the smart, emotionally strong tomboy who also happens to be blind was played with an understanding you don't often see in a period role. She was Ivy, and she was living in the late 19th century. She showed an innocence that she could only have gotten away with in this character, and she played it like the time was hers.
There was no doubt of who she was. She conveyed the strength (both her real strength and that which she exuded with a feminine machismo) of her character very well, but never pushing it over the top. She never shouted an emotion; she whispered it, but it was loud and clear. When she spoke about love and fear, you felt it. When she cried she wasn't hamming it up; she exuded grief from eyes, face, and body. She was brilliant, and I can't wait to see her on screen again. She also happens to be incredibly beautiful. Did that cloud my judgment? Go see the movie.
Phoenix continues to upstage his previous roles in every movie I've seen him in. His expressions are classic. The theater laughed more from his modest look of confusion in one scene than I've heard at the last 3 comedies I've watched. He was being more serious than ever, but the comedy of his emotions, however brief, was transmitted perfectly through his stone cold face, only barely showing what he felt inside, but saying everything. Throughout the movie, he was quiet, thoughtful, brave, and pure of spirit, and he said it all in so few words. When he spoke of emotion, it had a power that gripped me. The lines he delivered, though incredibly well written, were meant for him.
Shyamalan's dialogue helped, in that it was rarely obtrusive when spoken by these actors.
About the story: It twists in ways few could imagine. That makes it a bit upsetting. Expect to be let down a little. If you're not looking for gory horror, then you might just love it. When it's not changing directions though it's fantastic in it's subtleties. I can't avoid that word because it applies well to how Shyamalan put this together.
I don't buy many movies, but I will be purchasing this when it comes out on DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yes, this film was marketed poorly. Yes, the trailers were misguided.
But yes, this is also not a very good film.
The problem is that Night has introduced too many concepts, ideas and sub-plots with not enough time to fully realize any of them. The casting is wonderful; Hurt does his best "intellectual every man", Phoenix is a decently stoic enigma and newcomer Bryce is actually fantastic as the lead. But Sigourney Weaver is given little to do and some difficult, mundane dialogue to act her way through. Brendan Gleeson is inexcusably underused and Adrien Brody seems to have been edited out of any real emotional impact.
What this film wants to be is a comment on contemporary America - where a group of intellectuals (with the funding of one very wealthy family), disenfranchised with modern street violence and urban decay, could conceivably remove themselves from the modern world and live in the perceived utopia of a rural 19th century. But too many easy answers, tacked on script "quick fixes", and multiple convenient solutions expose the many holes in the film making. It always feels like Night was tacking on justification scenes as the film posed questions instead of having a clear vision at the script stage. I won't go into all of the examples - but there are many (costumes hidden under floorboards, a blind girl, a mentally challenged man who can't expose the truth of the woods, a clearly quick-fix line about someone paying off the government to not fly over the commune, etc). You never get the sense that Brody is in love enough to kill. You never really fear the "woods", you are never really forced to wonder what is in the boxes in the elders' homes, and the creatures should never have been shown (first rule of mis-direction-based suspense!). I'll offer this one question as an example indicative of the other problematic elements: Why - if the "elders" know that it is really not the 1800's, and also know that they are living in a protected area set up by the Walker family - do they make such a fuss about Ivy going for medicine? They know what she will find but not be able to see. Unlike Night's previous films, the mystery is not guarded in a realistic way. He makes these elders seem suspicious and mysterious solely for the benefit of the audience, but there is no real justification for the characters themselves. This is troubling throughout the film and ends up like most badly written suspense films where the twists only trick the viewer but seem ridiculous and improbable if you just deal with the fictional world contained in the film.
All in all, it's overly-simplistic; the equivalent of the "it was all a dream" device. While I was not disappointed that this film was not the horror thrill ride that the trailers would have you believe, I was disappointed that a clever idea was so badly edited together (it looks like hours of footage was shot, but slashed down to its essential plot points for time) and never realized. It's a shame, it could have been a great film if Night would have stuck to a couple fully developed characters and plot paths and really got us to invest in them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How does one write an intelligent, coherent review of a movie that made
me feel like I was not only cheated, but done so at a shameless way? M.
Night Shyamalan has, for the last three out of five movies, focused on
making sci-fi/horror films that rely on only one thing: a fantastic
twist at or near the movie's climax or critical point, which of course,
would make you, the viewer, do a double-take and applaud him for doing
something so breath-taking and original that it would, in itself, trump
the big revelation in VERTIGO (1957) or the final big denouement scene
in WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (also 1957). With THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
he had a honest hit, a revelation of a movie director with talent to
spare, but once he made SIGNS (2002), it was clear the cheap twist is
all he is about.
What can one do when one has to listen to the most God-awful dialog in recent film history? Judy Greer, whom I've seen in movies of varying quality and the TV series "Arrested Development," decides to proclaim her love for Joaquin Phoenix with an intensity that rivals that of Peter Finch's speech (take your pick, there are at least five) as Howard Beale in NETWORK (1976), but since here her lines are so horrible, it's unintentionally funny. As a matter of fact, everyone speaks in that odd pilgrim-like choice of words and utters sentences like, "What is your meaning" and "I know that thing that is in your head" as if it were written by Paddy Chayefsky or Joseph Mankiewicz or even Shakespeare. It is done so totally deadpan that it becomes painful to watch and more than once I looked at the time to see how much more I would have to endure, because when a story like this is devoid of even a slight bit of humor and is equally pointless, actions must be taken.
For a director to state that he has been influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, there has to be some proof in his work. Choices of takes and scenes, choices of actors/actresses, choices of stories to tell, music, among other things. Shyamalan may say he is influenced by (Hitchcock) all he wants but if he is so, I can't see it. The use of red here -- an important part of the story -- has been done masterfully by Hitchcock in the aforementioned VERTIGO (1957) and MARNIE (1964), and better still by Ingmar Bergman's CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972). Also, Hitchcock was The Master of Suspense: he gave us enough information for us to know what is happening at the moment, and then cranked up the mounting intensity to a fever pitch like the masterful Albert Hall sequence in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) or the scene in NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) where Cary Grant is left waiting for his ride in the middle of a cornfield and slowly but surely, a plane materializes. We know there is something about to happen, just not what, or if it will actually take place.
Sadly enough, there is zero suspense here. The events that take place in Covington, PA, fail to cause any sort of empathy or reaction, and the only real scene that introduces danger about to strike a major character seems so contrived it begs for a reason to exist. Why would Bryce Dallas Howard stand at the threshold extending her arm outward when it is clear there are things out there in the dark? Because the plot had her do so, not because there was a need for it.
So many ways to have told this story and genuinely introduce the twist without cheating the audience with holes as large as the ozone layer for the convenience and whims of the "plot." Shyamalan decides to cop out, waste some good talent (or, if seen differently, use high profile names like Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Brendan Gleeson, and Adrien Brody fresh out of his Oscar win, to ensure viewers), make some easy money, cash on his new-found fame, and produce a hat-trick that doesn't have a rabbit and basically gives no new insights. And that is a sad thing for a director to do, if he purportedly is to consider himself serious.
And one last thing: Shyamalan needs to take his name off the title of the movie, since he is not at the stature of a Kubrick or the aforementioned Hitchcock. He needs a little lesson in humility and return to making actual movies, not travesties.
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