M. Night Shyamalan is a brilliant, intuitive filmmaker whose lack of attention to the principles of screenwriting nearly fatally wound his newest movie, THE VILLAGE.
The eponymous village is a nineteenth century community surrounded by woods that, according to legend, contain scary monsters. Watchtowers and lanterns surround the perimeter of the village to protect it from the monsters. The movie opens with a Christian-looking funeral scene where a father is grieving over the coffin of his dead child. At a church elders meeting, a young man named Lucius enters and says that he is willing to go to the nearby town and get medicine. Of course, this means going through the woods, where the monsters live.
The monsters seem upset: a dead dog is found skinned and bloody, then another animal, then all the livestock, and then the monsters are seen running through the town. In the midst of this scary story, Lucius and a beautiful blind girl named Ivy recognize their love for each other and decide to get married. Their happiness is interrupted by jealousy and attempted murder. Ivy must undertake a dangerous journey to overcome the evil lurking within the village.
The technical problem with this movie is that M. Night Shyamalan did not stick to his original premise, one that is clear at the beginning and even stated in the press kit, that “fear of the outside monsters and terrors drives a community closer together.” Later in the movie, however, the premise switches to propose that only love overcomes the terrible fact man is broken and evil. When the premise shifts radically, the movie nearly completely loses its focus.
Morally, however, the movie is even darker. It portrays this apparently Christian community as actually being deceitful and hypocritical. These people sustain themselves through fear and have cut themselves off from the real world. However, even in trying to isolate themselves, the brokenness of man persists. At this point, you can say, “Yes, man is broken,” but the problem is that true faith and the invocations of deity are clearly not the answer to Lucius’s life threatening situation – love and modern medicine are. So, while it’s clear that only some prayers are answered, it is self-determination, strength, personal character, love, and following her heart that finally succeeds in helping Ivy avert total tragedy.
Although the script is fatally flawed, the direction is very well done, with the music and acting, the setting and camerawork creating a very high quality, visual, emotive movie. The script problem, however, even for those who don’t recognize what it is, is nearly fatal to the entertainment value. Shyamalan needs to take a good look at Linda Seger’s book HOW TO MAKE A GOOD SCRIPT GREAT and Legos Egri’s THE ART OF DRAMATIC WRITING.
The wonderful movie and play BRIGADOON are about an ideal Christian community that appears only every hundred years. THE VILLAGE is the reverse, a sinful place adopting a lie to save itself from evil, a lie that unravels but that is never ultimately defeated.
(H, Ab, B, C, RoRo, VV, D, M) Slightly humanist and very slightly anti-Christian worldview with some moral elements and Christian comments like “God bless you,” blessings, and prayer, as well as seemingly powerless invocations of God by artificial community, clear portrayal of the sinfulness of man and excessive free will, with strong Romantic elements that include assertions that love is the most powerful force in the world and that people should make emotional decisions; no foul language; lots of spooky threats of violence, animals skinned with their bodies scattered throughout the community, boy hits head on trapdoor, man stabbed twice with some blood shown, girl and later man fall into pit, and man dies; hugging and brief kissing; no nudity; smoking; drinking which may or may not be alcohol; and, stealing medicine and lying as major plot devices.
GENRE: Psychological Horror
THE VILLAGE is another psychological horror movie by M. Night Shyamalan, who did SIGNS and THE SIXTH SENSE. It’s about a 19th Century community surrounded by woods that, according to legend, contain scary monsters. One young man dares to go through the woods to the nearby towns to get medicine, but when jealousy and attempted murder interrupt his plan, his blind fiancé Ivy must venture past the monsters to save their love from being destroyed.
The problem with THE VILLAGE is that Shyamalan does not stick to his original premise, one that is clear at the beginning: “Fear of the outside drives a community closer together.” Later, we find that the premise is really that only love overcomes the terrible fact man is broken and evil. Morally, the movie is very dark. It portrays this apparently Christian community as actually being deceitful and hypocritical. These people sustain themselves through fear and have cut themselves off from the world. Also, they try to solve their problems with human love, ignoring God. Although the script is fatally flawed, the direction and acting are well done, making this a high quality, visual, emotive movie.