The International Writers Magazine: Film Review
Review of The Village
weird. I seem to be the only person who recognizes how poorly
written M. Night Shyamalans films are. Is it because Im
a Hitchcock aficionado? No. I just have an ability to read narrative
arcs and see where things are going. It was obvious that Bruce
Willis was dead in The Sixth Sense, that Samuel L. Jackson was
the bad guy in Unbreakable, and that, well, Signs sucked altogether.
Perhaps I demand
too much, ot perhaps its because I see in MNS a burgeoning Spike
Lee or Steven Spielberg- i.e.- someone with a great eye but no knack
for storytelling. My advice: become a cinematographer, or write better
tales! This, especially, goes out to MNS, since he writes his films,
and all are twist films- dependent upon that final reveal.
This means there are two problems- 1) once the twist is revealed
the film is not worth watching a second time, and 2) hes no Rod
Serling. You see, MNS is a very predictable and ham-handed director-
utterly lacking in subtlety- HE HITS YOU OVER THE HEAD! Yet, it turns
out his weapons are rather pallid.
Here is a capsule synopsis of The Village: a bunch of do-gooder
Luddite Liberals from the 60s get fed up with modern materialism, and
decide to go Anabaptist. Fortunately, the head nut, Edward Walker (William
Hurt) is the son of a billionaire, who buys a piece of land, walls it
up as a nature preserve and he and his friends raise their children
to believe that they are living in the late 19th Century, and their
village is surrounded by Those We Do Not Speak Of- boogeymen, of sorts,
who routinely terrorize the wacky villagers. Years later, when the film
begins, the next generation really believes they are in the 19th Century,
and the blind daughter, Ivy Walker (Bryce Howard- daughter of schlockmeister
Ron Howard) of the head nut has fallen in love with a guy named Lucius
Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix), son of Alice Hunt (Sigourney Weaver)- Eds
old flame from the days of bong. The only other character of note is
psychotic Noah Percy, played by a scenery chewing Adrien Brody.
is blind, but desired by both Noah and Lucius- who ever wants to
leave the village, so seeks permission. Noah finds out of Luciuss
and Ivys love, and stabs Lucius. This means Ivy the blind,
somehow, has to go to The Towns, i.e.- outside the preserve for
medicine. She does, after being abandoned by chickenshit companions
and learning, from Ed that Those are just a hoax meant to keep the
villagers in line.
Yet, as blind Ivy
stumbles through the forest she is followed by a Those. Incredibly,
the blind girl ends up killing the one of Those- who turns out to be
Noah. Ivy makes it outside the preserve, meets a friendly ranger, gets
meds and returns to save Lucius. End story.
This film had potential, but the only character developed is
Ivy, and Howard could be a major star- pretty, red haired, but not gorgeous,
she reminded me of a younger version of Canadian actress Megan Follows,
of Anne Of Green Gables fame, with girl next door looks that could make
her a natural in Julia Roberts-type roles. But, none of the other characters
had real motivations. MNS tries to jam ideas in, but all his films are
thin half hour minute Twilight Zone episodes on steroids. As
for it being an allegory on modern day life- where elitists/religiots
hoodwink the gullible masses, funded by the super-rich. Yeah, got that
well before the reveal that this was not set in the 19th Century. This
aint your fathers The Crucible! The acting is generally
atrocious- not so much from the clipped attempt at old English, as much
as the constant clichés these cardboard cutouts use, their melodramatic
whispers, and the dreadful close-ups MNS uses. Many of the lesser known
actors, its claimed in the extras, were stage trained, and their
awkwardness in front of a camera shows. Add to that many cheap, hermetic
scares, where the characters are terrified and the audience yawns, and
you have a mess of a film, and cheap explanations- after Noah stabs
Lucius he is confined, only to escape via floorboards in a Those costume,
conveniently stored below. Then there are scary things that are not
and the love story has no passion as Phoenix is a terrible actor- how
he keeps getting roles is beyond me. The whole set up is silly.
If the village elders know the difference between the real world and
their The Truman Show-like irreality, why worry if a blind girl will
find her way out? Why affect a 19th Century accent, or put 1897 on a
tombstone? The Luddite kids would have no idea it was meant to connote
that, for theyd not grasp what 1897 was to be like? It could easily
be claimed to be 1238 or 2467. The only reason is to fool the viewers-
thus the internal universe of the film is logically inconsistent. Of
course, there are many other inconsistencies, as well. MNS really needs
to hire good screenwriters to flesh out his ideas.
This film had potential to be as great a work of art as that
other great fictive The Village- from the 1967 tv show The Prisoner,
but it fails miserably on all levels. MNS wouldnt know a well-written
script if you beat him with it. Am I repeating myself? Let me range
a little more- I am tired of mere cinematographers posing as auteurs.
Learn narrative arcs. Perhaps I do expect too much- like character development,
plausible plots, etc. and tales not based on a twist, but situations
that logically and/or organically grow out of situation.
Yet, a quick review of professional critics reviews was
astounding, for most seemed to miss that this was a film not set in
the 19th Century- instead believing that some time tripping had occurred.
As for the extras? Theres no commentary, thankfully, for the featurettes
are fellatric enough- including a heinous diary by Bryce Howard, and
an execrable bit of another of MNSs bad home movies from childhood.
He seems to put far more care into his childhood films selected for
the DVDs than he does his actual grown up films. In short, MNS delivers
another film with a good premise, but lousy execution in all aspects.
Ive given up on him as a film director, but Im sure hes
got his next twist film already in the works. (Sigh!)
© Dan Schnieder March 2005
all rights reserved