|"It's by an Indian!" Screamed some of the teenage Asian girls I encountered while trying to enter the movie theatre where M. Night Shyamalan's new venture "The Village" was being showcased. My brownness glowed with pride as the opening credits started to roll. Here's what I found.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator), Adrian Brody (Pianist), Sigourney Weaver and Bryce Dallas Howard, the daughter of Ron Howard (Director of A Beautiful Mind), The Village is a period supernatural thriller with a usual Shyamalan shocking twist.
The story revolves around a village of approximately 60 inhabitants who follow certain rules in order to maintain their purity. Rules such as hiding the "bad color" (red) and not venturing into the neighboring somber woods due to a pact with the evil creatures who reside within. However the village life gets disrupted as animals are found skinned and some villagers are found dead. Medication is required to treat certain illnesses, but to do so would mean to pass through the woods in order to get to the towns with such vaccines. Then begins the actual plot as Shyamalan toys with his characters, putting them in situations they don't want to be in. And of course the twist is in there somewhere.
The Village is probably one of the most gorgeous pieces of film to be put on the celluloid of late. To say the cinematography by veteran Roger Deakins is awesome would be a gross understatement. Deakins has clearly out done himself. Every scene is executed brilliantly, especially the ones with chiascuro blending with the actors. While the camera angles aren't extraordinary, they lend a simplicity to the plot making it seem more realistic and thus more scary. The sets are brilliant, as are the outdoor Philadelphia locales. Costumes almost breathe life on their own, and the attention to detail is remarkable. Visually, the film looks absolutely stunning.
The actors match their surroundings with power-packed performances. Joaquin Phoenix as the boy who doesn't say much, speaks volumes with his eloquent silences and expressions. His focus deserves an applause by itself. On the contrary, Adrian Brody's deliberate over the top acting finds a balance such that emotional appeal and comic relief aren't far from each other. He shows great versatility in a role that very few can pull off such early in their careers. However the greatest find in the film is Bryce Dallas Howard, playing Ivy, a blind girl. She sinks her teeth in a role which demanded histrionics, and came off looking one of the most convincing young actresses of today. She adds a certain spunk to her role which juxtaposes the eerie nature of the script. Shyamalan has never before extracted such a potent performance from any of his actors.
As great as the visuals and the acting is, The Village does has its weaknesses. The biggest one being the script itself. Shyamalan has taken a great risk here with a subject that while may sound good inside his head, is very hard to pen it down on paper and make sense. One may argue about the validity of the twist, but the fact is that the plot had too many problems even before the twist was introduced. The twist just turned around everything, as it's supposed to, but in this case for the worst. When the movie is done, it just looks like one big blob of ridiculousness as opposed to a masterpiece that it was heading towards.
Never before has a movie made me feel so mad and cheated that I almost wished for it all to go into rewind mode, so I can keep my money in my wallet as opposed to handing it to the box office collector. If you're interested in film noir or cinematography, The Village will appeal to you. If however you're looking for a decent story that could send chills down your spine, you're better off renting Silence of the Lambs .