July 29, 2004

The Village- A Movie Review

A Foray Into Fear and Utopia
By Fred H. Arm
At first glance this supposed late nineteenth century village seems picture perfect--a handful of Villagers living harmoniously in an idyllic setting. However, this close-knit community lives with the frightening belief that a race of frightening creatures resides in the woods surrounding their village.

The sanctity of “The Village” is held in constant check by a sort of an unwritten treaty with the creatures referred to by the townspeople as “Those We Don’t Speak Of.” The villagers live in a state of constant fear of the evil and foreboding force that lurks outside their tranquil settlement. So terrified are the people that no one dares venture beyond “The Village” perimeter into the darkness of the woods.

Despite the advice of his elders, a curious and determined Lucius Hunt (JOAQUIN PHOENIX) has a burning desire to step beyond the boundaries of the town into the unknown to bring back supplies and medicine from neighboring villages. Town leader, Edward Walker (WILLIAM HURT) warns Lucius of the danger beyond the town’s outskirts, and Lucius’ mother, Alice Hunt (SIGOURNEY WEAVER) begs him to stay at home and spare himself the greed and desires that exist in the outside world.

Lucius’ strength and courage is matched only by Ivy Walker (BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD), a beautiful and mesmerizing young blind woman with a profound wisdom well beyond her years. Her fearless nature and gift-like perceptions are beyond anything Lucius has ever known. Both Lucius and the mischievous village idiot, Noah Percy (ADRIEN BRODY) admire Ivy passionately, though her heart only has room for one of them. Her devotion eventually leads her down a tortured forbidden path where terrifying truths are revealed and sudden violence plays out its fearful hand. The so-called truce between “The Village” and the creatures seems to be ending and the ominous presence of the unknown force ultimately boils over into chaos for the town. And so, the story begins to unfold.

Brilliantly directed by M. Night Shyamalan, this haunting saga’s music and direction sends terrifying chills and conjures up horrifying images waiting at every turn only to turn out as ordinary events or things. Much like his previous movie, “Sixth Sense”, Shyamalan has a knack for creating tension and fear without having to produce a terrifying giant lizard such as in “Jurassic Park” to justify the terror.
The fear and respect given to these unseen creatures seems analogous to what early man must have gone through as beliefs were formed as the result of real and/or imagined forces that ultimately set up certain behaviors that were thought to placate these forces. In “The Village”, the people learned to avoid the color red and would go about destroying any red plants. Occasionally a slaughtered animal was left at the edge of the Village to appease the creatures. They learned to wear certain colors they were led to believe would keep the creatures away. Essentially, the effect was to create an artificial religion that may have ultimately bloomed into a fully formed and organized faith, much like island natives who worshiped and sacrificed animals and people to volcano gods in order to appease them.

The acting was superior to most films, however, nowhere near the level of an Academy Award. The film is to be admired for its ability to keep you terrified and involved; however, after a while it became quite wearisome when no bogeymen appeared to justify all that uproar and tension. Once the plot unfolded, it held many surprises, although somewhat implausible. Basically a fairy tale, the “Village” is worthy of attendance as long as there is plenty of popcorn available to dispel the tension of two hours of fright.

Posted by fredarm at July 29, 2004 05:27 PM
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