Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Rebuilding the Village

M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" has been panned by the majority of the blogosphere, and the critics. I'm not ashamed to say that I quite liked it. I'm not trying to be contrarian, I'll leave that to Rex Reed. There is a lot to like about this film, and I'll try and cover what I can.

Be forewarned there are spoilers.

The Village is a period piece about an isolated village surrounded by creatures who hunt down those who wander outside the village, or bare the color red. I have to be up front in saying that I don't like period pieces. Nothing bores me faster than anything by Bronte or Austen. The Village works in that there are issues to consider that are more important than: does the Duke of Earl Grey like me?

There are some parallels between this film and A.I. . Both we're good films, both draw on archetypes to connect with the audience, and both probably ran too long. In A.I. Kubrick/Spielberg draw heavily from Pinocchio to help fill in the plot of a film based on a verry short story. In this film the lifting isn't quite as pronounced. There are more than a fair share of characters who deal with unrequited love and the social entanglements that result; a bit of a nod to Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter and Shirley Jackson's Lottery is quite evident throughout. There is genuine longing in this film, there is a silent ache that surfaces in a scene where Lucius finally confesses his love for Ivy. As glib as some of the lines in the movie may seem, Lucius and Ivy's exchange may be some of the most honest screenwriting on love outside of Linklater's Before Sunrise/Sunset. Adrien Brody's character, Noah Percy seems to be the stock character of every period piece, the village idiot. I see him more as Lenny, from Of Mice & Men, the simple innocent man-child who commits an unspeakable act, unlike Lenny, we get the feeling that Noah knew better.

The climaxes of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs all played out within the last 10-15 minutes of the movie. Once the plot had run its course and the finale was laid bare, the house lights came up. It's a satisfying way to end the movie as there are precious few questions left to answer. This is where The Village slightly deviates from the "formula", as you might have read elsewhere the central plot unravels early, with nearly 30 minutes left in the feature. The veil is lifted, they are not in 1890, they are in the present, and the village elders are responsible for the charade. It seems that at that point a lot of viewers either stopped paying attention, or didn't care what happened once they figured out the central plot.

A Ha! They were living in the present all along!! Grab the keys, lets go home!

But even as "the secret" is revealed, the plot keeps unraveling and more question are posed:
If the Village was constructed to escape the violence of the outside world, does Noah's "betrayal" mean that the elders failed?
Would Ivy return in time to save Lucius?
Would the elders tell the other children the truth?

So who's fault is it? Did Night fall short of providing us with reasons to care about his characters? Did they do too little to earn our emotional investment? Or were we so concerned with spotting the plot twist before anyone else that we didn't invest ourselves in the movie?

Empire 1, Ebert 0.

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