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It seems that a small remote, isolated 19th century village enjoys an idyllic lifestyle, untainted by the stresses and demands of the outside world. But life is not so stress-free for the younger generation, who have yet to accept the daily fear that keeps the village isolated: demons in the woods that surround the village. A truce of sorts exists, a boundary is in force, guarded at night. Still there are incursions, and fear is about. Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) is determined to see outside, into 'the towns', but the leading elder (William Hurt) won't let him. It's Walker's blind daughter Ivy (Brycae Dallas Howard) who ends up making that trip, with devastating results.

Review by Louise Keller:
M. Night Shyamalan has the knack for mood and suspense, but in his fourth film, The Village, the emphasis rests heavily on the surprise reveal ending. And more's the pity. The journey is at times intriguing and the characters beg for our acquaintance, but the film's twist (whether or not you see it coming) feels shallow. I felt cheated, rather than satisfied, with the lyrics of Peggy Lee's haunting ballad 'Is That All There Is?' repeating in my head.

Since the release of Shyamalan's masterwork The Sixth Sense, his follow-up projects of Unbreakable and Signs have disappointed. And as much as I would have otherwise, The Village is the most disappointing of all.

The film starts well with ominous images of gloomy skies, barren trees and James Newton Howard's edgy score. The music has as many shades as the ripples in the stream, and Roger Deakin's cinematography, with its beautiful lighting, is superb. Slowly, we get a sense of the village, the way of life and the close-knit villagers who rely on each other totally. It is apparent that there are closely guarded secrets that the village elders are privy to, but there is much that is never discussed. Even the monsters they fear, who terrorise the whole village and restrict them from venturing beyond the forest are not called by name, but referred to as 'those we do not speak of'.

Central to the plot is Bryce Dallas Howard's blind love-struck Ivy, whose love for Joaquin Phoenix's man of few words, Lucius, is the driving force. Ron Howard's daughter, reminiscent at times of a young Mia Farrow with her gamin features and sandy complexion, portrays both vulnerability and quiet courage. Ivy may be physically blind, but is, in fact, the only one who can see. Love is the driver, and the scene between Ivy and Lucius as they sit on the edge of the wooden boards of the porch after sundown, when their feelings for each other are revealed, is charming. As they kiss, the camera pans to the left and rests on the empty rocking chair. Adrien Brody's dim-witted Noah is a tragic presence, and much store is given to the unexpressed feelings between John Hurt's enigmatic elder and Sigourney Weaver's lonely widow.

As in The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan uses colours (red and yellow) to signal the evil threat and safety, and we are never sure what lies in store, as we stumble into the unknown with Ivy through the pitfalls of the muddy forest. But it soon becomes clear that the plot is equally muddy, with contrived explanations and unresolved issues. What happens in the forest (and in the sixth reel) is as unbelievable as the red berries that suddenly appear as if by magic. Shyamalan continues to make an on-screen appearance as his customary ritual, but this time, it is cleverly kept to a minimum; we only see his features reflected in a glass cabinet during the film's final scenes.

Whether or not you can believe that a blind girl could find her way alone through a maze of bushland is a point to ponder. The revelations come one after another in the last half an hour, and as the truth sinks in, so does our expectation. I felt as flat as a pancake made with too much flour. So much relies on the impact of the ending. I found myself wondering whether I really cared?

For those who are interested in finding out more, on the DVD there's a detailed deconstruction, which canvasses some of the elements of the film, including the scoring of the music, when composer James Newton Howard talks about the use of the violin. The section about casting is interesting as Shyamalan talks about how the casting all fell into place after he cast Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy. He specially wrote the role of Lucius for Joaquin Phoenix. Bryce's Diary is a breathy recollection of her experiences of playing the role of Ivy, from initial meetings, screen tests to the actual filming and watching the finished film. There are also some deleted scenes and a photo gallery plus we see a very young Shyamalan in a home movie he made as a kid.

Published January 13, 2005

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CAST: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson

PRODUCER: M. Night Shyamalan, Scott Rudin, Sam Mercer

DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan

SCRIPT: M. Night Shyamalan


EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen

MUSIC: James Newton Howard


RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Features; deleted scenes; the making of The Village, M. Night Shyamalan home movie


DVD RELEASE: January 12, 2005

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