jueves, 11 de noviembre de 2010

The Village: How M. Night Shyamalan finally surprised me

(Although I tried to refrain from spoilers, this review might include some.)

Reactions and thoughts about M. Night Shyamalan’s first films are fairly unanimous. If you’ve seen any of these films, chances are I could predict your thoughts about them.

The Sixth Sense I loved it! I was blown away by the ending!
Unbreakable It was good, but I don't know what to say about the ending
Signs I don't know. There was potential, but it was full of plotholes.
The Village Wow, that was pretty bad!

If I guessed right, you’re on par with most people and supposedly “normal”. If I didn’t guess right, then you’re probably thought of as a “freak” and one of a few people, like me, to have polarizing opinions about Shyamalan’s films.
I, for one, thought The Sixth Sense was predictable and boring, wasn’t very impressed by Unbreakable, and thought Signs had its moments of scares, fun, and drama. Now, the point where I most abruptly break away from most people is with The Village.

The Village was Shyamalan’s fourth film. It follows a small group of people that live in a secluded small village in what seems to be late 19th Century. The village is seemingly haunted by mysterious creatures referred to as “Those We Don’t Speak Of”, forcing villagers to stand guard at night and preventing them from venturing into the woods surrounding the village.

Released in 2004, it was mostly marketed by Touchstone as some sort of horror thriller. Unfortunately, the film was really more of a thriller/drama which seems to be one of the reasons that turned Shyamalan’s fans off. Also, some people weren’t that fond of the twist revelation near the end, which some say doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, or it’s simply nuts.

So with an already “broken” and “twisted” history with Shyamalan’s films (at least when compared to most people), I ventured into this film a couple of years ago. Look at my face of shock when I realized I loved the freakin’ film. From beginning to end, I thought it was nearly excellent. I revisited it about a month ago, only to end up liking it even more perhaps. Heck, if I were to make a Top 5 of films from 2004, The Village would probably be there.

Shyamalan managed to slowly build an atmosphere of dread and fear surrounding the innocent environment of the village. The way he crafted this fear, with the stories of “those we don’t speak of” and seeing people shy away from the forest, was extremely effective, thanks mostly to Shyamalan’s moody directing. As for the performances, none of them really blew me away, but I thought most of them were effective. William Hurt clearly shows his experience with what I would say is the best performance in the film; that of a conflicted and guilt-ridden person, yet driven for what he thinks is best for his people.

As for the revelation (or revelations?), I thought they were, in general, magnificently written and handled. There are three major twists or revelations in the film, the first of which I think was fairly obvious. I really don’t think Shyamalan thought it would be much of a surprise and he reveals it about halfway into the film, setting the climax of the film. The second revelation occurs during the climax, and was somewhat disturbing; not for what happened, but probably for what it meant. Was this intentional? Did the elders arrange it to happen that way? How driven are they to preserve their way of life? Now, the final revelation is the one that blew my mind. I must say I never really saw that coming, and the way it is shown, makes it completely believable. Rewatching the film after knowing what is happening, really adds a lot of depth to the dialogues and actions of some of the characters. How disturbing is it that people chose this way of life?  Is it really disturbing? What does that say about our society? Was it a good idea?  Can you blame them?  think it is a very thought-provoking premise and one that lends the film to repeated viewings and further analysis.

So, as one of the few that actually loved this film, I encourage you to forget about what anyone else told you. Give the film a chance and decide for yourself whether this was Shyamalan’s fall from grace or his crowning achievement. For me, it’s easily the latter. Grade: A-