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The Village -- thoughts?

 
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The Third M?n
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Location: Chasing Stef around post-war Vienna

PostPosted: 09.25.2004 11:26 pm    Post subject: The Village -- thoughts? Reply with quote

The Village is not as scary as the trailers would?ve led you to believe. In fact, it?s hardly scary at all, even if there is a dominating sense of dread and menace from beginning to end. The film contains atmosphere in abundance, but at the end, it?s a bit of a disappointment. It is actually a love story with some horror elements, but not viceversa. The problem is that the former works wonderfully, while the same can?t be said about the latter. The narrative flows freely and Shyamalan unwraps the tale with admirable skill, choosing to focus more on the love aspect than on the terror one (which is less emphasized or simply, not very scary).



As it stands, The Village is Shyamalan?s weakest film of his big four; it has many excellent ideas but it feels a bit too confused about where it really wants to be. A bad film it?s not, but it comes across as somewhat contrived, and the last third of the film works as a complete manifestation of this. There?s no reason to be scared (anymore) because basically everything that we?d believed in beforehand is completely denied.



The horror simply disappears. In the blink of an eye. Just like that. The Village starts out really well, but it then gets so close to the line, it has to cross it, thus bordering on the absurd. The film?s second main revelation is not surprising because it?s infuriating; basically, Shyamalan takes away and kills all the mystery that had existed before, and the possible terror that may have taken place after. But no; once we find out, that sense of danger is gone, because we just can?t be afraid.



And then comes the final, real twist. While it?s well executed and even though one can feel there?s a good idea beneath all that celluloid, it just doesn?t entirely work. It goes on for too long (had the twist still been kept, it should?ve ended I?m sure you-know-where ? there is no need for so much explanation) and it?s a bit of an excuse for Shyamalan to, once again, appear in one of his good old cameos (this one being a bit more unorthodox). Also, its social message or whatever it?s trying to evoke arrives way too late for it to carry an impact on the audience.



Of course, it would be a gross mistake to regard The Village as an awful film (which it isn?t) because of its ending. To criticize it like that would be unfair, because there is much more to it, even if it sometimes seems that Shyamalan built it all for the ending. The film does make you wonder if a story that isn?t properly concluded was one worth telling. Is this the case with The Village? Perhaps, it may very well be and yes, Shyamalan could have ended it some other way, but nevertheless one has to admit that what came before it showed signs of brilliance here and there.



The characters, their situations, their names, the feelings they have for each other and their sensations are very well conveyed. Shyamalan clearly has a talent for working with talented actors, and The Village shows us just that. It?s true that some of them (William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver) may be a tad underused, but just because they?re big stars doesn?t mean they have to get bigger roles. Either way, the cast does all a fine job, not excluding William Brody as the dumb Noah, who goes hyper every time the creatures appear, and Joaquin Phoenix, who is apt as the quiet and brave Lucius Hunt.



The Village is, at its core, a tale of love and bravery, a story about how to overcome one?s fears, about isolation and the need to stay together. One of The Village?s main successes, despite its shortcomings, is its lead, Bryce Dallas Howard, whom Shyamalan discovered in a Broadway play. Acting as the film?s foundations, just like in the film she?s the foundations upon which the village is built, she gives a strong performance that is arguably the most standout component of the film. Her character, despite being blind, is probably the most confident and courageous of them all, and this is where one of the film?s message lies. She seems to know everyone better than they know themselves, and when she has to, she?s prepared to risk her life for the rest. The moment at the end where she ventures into the woods consists of one beautiful image after another, no matter what?s occurring. This is, of course, due to the magnificent visual eye of the film.



Roger Deakins? cinematography is one of the vital elements of the film; both grey and colorful, it fills the screen with images of unprecedented beauty or horror (the race between Ivy and Noah, the skinned bodies of animals, the moment where Lucius grabs Ivy?s hand in slow motion and they both head to the basement, as the creature follows them from behind, etc). It captures the autumnal and nocturnal feel splendidly. Aided by James Newton Howard?s calculated score (which makes a great use of the violin), the two combine to give the film a somewhat unique feel; all in all, in the technical department, The Village is a success.



Shyamalan, as always, takes delicacy and patience to make his films as visually and aurally interesting as possible, and his latest is no exception. Moments such as the stabbing of one particular character midway through the film is brilliance personified; The Village contains many memorable scenes scattered throughout, but taken as a whole, the film amounts to almost nothing. First, it?s like a mound of sand that you have in your hands, but as time goes by, it begins to slip through your fingers, until there?s four, three, two grains of sand left on your palms.



The problem obviously doesn?t lie in Shyamalan?s style but elsewhere. He should cease regurgitating his twist ending thingamagy (which, with this film, has now become a gimmick) and go on to broaden his horizons. The Village is neither exceedingly poor nor particularly clever; it?s actually somewhere in between. Shyamalan is no doubt a magician, but his reputation will take a negative turn if he chooses to play the same tricks over and over, and he will grow to become less and less appealing. With The Village he shows signs of illness, and I, being the big fan of his that I am, only hope that he recovers as soon as possible. Shyamalan tries not to repeat himself, and indeed does accomplish that -- for a while, anyway. With The Village he takes another direction and yet, for some reason, ends at the same point. And what a disgrace that is, because he was doing so well until then.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.26.2004 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A discussion of The Village can be found here (near the bottom of the page), which includes everything I, personally, have to offer.



As far as your comments are concerned, I think Shyamalan has a knack for building suspense, but maybe not for storytelling. His ego seems to get in the way of allowing a story to unfold naturally. Specifically, he seems to have a desire to do something significant. I appreciate the fact that he chooses to work in the fantasy mode, and hope he does succeed in his endeavor (if I've ascertained his desire correctly), because fantastic films are all too often dismissed as juvenile and unimportant. Although I thought The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable were very good films, both Signs and The Village contained flaws too great to overlook. As a whole, I think Shyamalan's last two movies are, as you suggest, awful, in spite of solid and engaging first halves.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 09.26.2004 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I concur with every word, NW, especially the idea that fantastic films are as valid a format as any other. Although my own taste generally lies elsewhere, there's no question such genres contain room for significant artistic ambition. (Is it possible that part of the reason these genres have a juvenile connotation is because so many filmmakers working in them never attempt to capitalize upon their artistic possibilities?)



Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.26.2004 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
Is it possible that part of the reason these genres have a juvenile connotation is because so many filmmakers working in them never attempt to capitalize upon their artistic possibilities?




Yes, without a doubt, the balance of fantastic films is aimed more at uncomplicated entertainment than anything challenging or experimental. I, Robot is a perfect example -- a movie based on the works of a "hard" science fiction author turned into formulaic sci-fi. Success and popularity can work against a genre in some ways, can't they?
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Monkeypox
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PostPosted: 09.28.2004 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rod Serling was a great writer, one of the best television writers ever. So much of his work was being censored by the advertisers and networks that he started Twilight Zone, knowing he could get away with meaningful social commentary within the fantasy construct.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 09.29.2004 1:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Serling was the hippest cat on TV, ever. He's the reason I smoke, wear rail thin ties, and speak by way of monologue today. Has anyone ever seen Requiem for a Heavyweight? It's on A&E or Bravo or one of those channels every once and a while, but I always manage to miss it.
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