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If you go down to the woods today....
The Village (DVD)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
The Village (DVD)
Advantages: Good premise, cast and performances
Disadvantages: Could have made a better film with the same premise.
When The Village plopped on my mat from my DVD rental service I couldn't remember what it was about and why I had added it. It is written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan who is most famous for Sixth Sense, which I imagine is what intrigued me, although his subsequent films such as Unbreakable and Signs have not had the same commercial or critical success, nor did I enjoy them as much.
The film is set in an isolated, rural Pennsylvanian village in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The village is surrounded by a forest which contains strange, mythical type creatures that are not always friendly. Because of them the villagers do not venture into the forest and therefore do not leave the village. When a child dies, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) offers to travel through the forest to get medicine from nearby towns, but the village elders refuse to allow him to go. We also get an idea of village life, and how inward looking and superstitious it is. There is often a night lookout watching for the unnamed creatures (referred to only as Those Of Whom We Do Not Speak) from the forest and red is considered a bad colour that is banned in the village as it represents the creatures. This is really a character led drama and love story rather than a horror film, though. The film has an impressive ensemble cast headed by Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of director Ron Howard) as blind Ivy Walker who falls in love with Lucius. However, Noah (Adrien Brody), a mentally handicapped man in the village also loves Ivy and wants to keep her for himself and this is where tragedy strikes meaning that it is Ivy who has to go through the forest to get medicine from a nearby town.
You can't fault the acting in this, Howard is superb, and Phoenix pulls off the quiet, brooding Lucius with ease. Brody seems to enjoy his role as the excitable Noah and they are ably supported by the elders that include William Hurt as Ivy's father, Edward and Sigourney Weaver as Lucius' mother, Alice. The quality of the acting cannot be faulted, and the full subtleties that I believe Shyamalan wanted to depict in the village dynamics are all there. You do question the villagers' obsession with the forest and this does lead into the inevitable plot twist. Most of it I saw coming but not all of it or how it was executed so don't assume it is in the bag when you start watching (mind you I am usually the last person to see a twist in anything, so perhaps I am not the best person to judge!). For all its faults, the film did stay in my mind the whole of the next day, and I quite liked the premise but think it could have been explored differently and better. This is the most frustrating thing about the film; it has the potential to be a much better, more challenging and thought-provoking film with the same plot premise just executed differently. Probably with a better writer and director too!
The music is good but nothing special, certainly not memorable. There are no special effects, and the scenery and costumes appear to be authentic of a simple rural life of that period. The film is beautifully shot in winter time, so although picturesque the village can also look grey and unappealing.
There are a number of extras on the DVD, usually with an introduction by Shyamalan. There are a series of 'Deconstructing The Village' featurettes (essentially Making Of… films) that cover shooting, casting and boot camp amongst other topics. In total there are six of these totaling approximately 25 minutes. The best one in my opinion is Boot Camp which shows how the cast spent some time at a Living Museum learning woodwork, cheese making and other nineteenth century rural practices.
There are five deleted scenes which don't add anything to the movie, so you can see why they were deleted.
There are extracts from Bryce Dallas Howard's diary, written before, during and after filming, which she reads herself over music and soft focus images, which lasts 5 minutes and this is plenty long enough.
Apparently it is traditional for Shyamalan to include one of his home movies form his teens on his DVDs, thus we see one that he wrote and starred in himself with a bit of help from the dog. There is also a photo gallery.
This film has a twelve certificate, which I think is fair. There is no bad language (speech is rather old fashioned such as in an Austen or Dickens novel), and limited violence, although there are a few scenes that can be perceived as slightly scary for youngsters. It is not the best thriller you will watch or the best love story but will not be the worst film you've ever seen and can while away a couple of hours. I hestitate as to whether I would recommend this film or not, but in the end I thing 'yes', enjoy the performances and then think of how you could do a better job without the silly creatures.
Summary: M Night Shyamalan film.