The Village (12 A)

Written, directed, and produced by M Night Shyamalan

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

M Night Shyamalan has earned a reputation as modern cinema’s master of the plot twist, with his previous films like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable managing to surprise even today’s sophisticated audiences, although he has so far struggled to live up to the reputation of his first film.

His latest release, The Village, is set in 1897 in a remote village in rural Pennsylvania. It’s inhabitants live a seemingly idyllic and peaceful life and there are many scenes of feasts and festivities showing a great community spirit, but the villagers live an isolated existence, staying away from the “towns” the village elders were all keen to get away from and even more so from the woods which surround their hamlet, which are said to contain mysterious creatures referred only to as “those we do not speak of” whom they fear greatly but seem to live in an uneasy truce with, providing neither crosses each others boundaries. But when the inward but brave Lucien played well by Joaquin Phoenix begins to venture beyond the trees it appears the truce is broken and the villagers find strangled and skinned animals and threatening red marks on their doors.

The film is filled throughout with a brooding atmosphere helped by brilliant photography which shifts from gothic shadow to the sepia-glow of village life. Shyamalan manages to create a mood of tension in the picture which is engrossing even when little is happening on screen.

All the actors performances work well, though Sigourney Weaver has less screen time than her billing would suggest, but the stand-out performance comes from Bryce Dallas Howard (Daughter of director and Happy Days star Ron Howard) who plays blind girl Ivy with emotion and dignity and it ends up falling on her shoulders to save those she loves.

For my mind this is Shyamalan’s finest film and certainly his best since The Sixth Sense. There are several twists and turns in the plot rather than the one big surprise of his previous films but the ending should still come as a shock which you will probably love or hate depending on who you are. If you think hard about it there are several holes in the plot (were do they get the oil for all those lamps? etc) but he has produced an engrossing film which in addition to the usual shocks also leaves you with food for thought on the nature of isolation, innocence and fear of outsiders.
Detail freaks remember to watch out for Shyamalan’s cameo roles.