Say what you will about this stupid movie, M. Night Shyamalan's 2004 film The Village has an exquisite first three-quarters, before its half-hearted twist rears its head and inoculates what might've been an edgy tale of isolationist-conservative head games, turning the proceedings into a simplistic sociology fantasy, not decisive or near conclusive enough about the weepy group of wounded puppies that lie at the story's center.
You know you have a problem when the line "Why have we not heard of these rocks before?" stands firmly as the film's sharpest motion towards commentary on political subterfuge, although William Hurt's hearty intonements reverberating through Bryce Dallas Howard's head as she traverses the woods, as well as the village elders' useless baby-with-the-bathwater decision to throw out modern medicines along with everything else, also effectively communicates the insipidity and trauma of controlled repression.
But those first three quarters, they offer some achingly pure statements on romance and courage - those most chivalric-aged and provenly everlasting values - and their selfsameness; tied restlessly to rejuvenation and youth, and troublingly, inexplicably to tumultuousness and modernity.
The Village is at its best channeling the standard Victorian age tales of passions untethered and romance embraced. Shyamalan's a bit too family-friendly for any bodice ripping, but romance is that special thing that is often just as scintillating at its earliest, most innocent stages.
For instance, here is Shyamalan's own lovely moment illustrating that wonderful thing that is unresolved sexual tension, occurring between two still very attractive aging megastars:
A silent beat after a line of dialogue, then...
Without seeing the movement of the arm, we see the hand in reach. Her hand had reached out before she even knew it had.
And another moment that achieves heartrending beauty:
The girl joyously, over-emphatically expresses her love to a boy.
SMASH CUT TO:
The girl, wailing, heartbroken.
Our first introduction to the film's main character: the girl's sister Ivy, in blue, consoling her sister. Her face is only hinted.
Only a mysterious presence of wise understanding,
the camera pulls back as she sings a sweet lullaby:
BACKWARDS TRACKING SHOT:
"Baby sleep, gently sleep...
Life is long, and love is deep."
"Time will be sweet for thee...
All the world to see."
Ivy's face remains only hinted: as a youth - and being as romances and passions are the pivotal thing for the young from the viewpoint of Shyamalan's film - her character has yet to reveal her "face": that is, her inner romances, yet to be exposed (soon to be revealed as a fervent mutual affection between herself and the town's silent hero of equal courageousness: the intrepid Lucius, played by Joaquin Pheonix).
The lullaby's lyrics are a sweet expression of the opportunities of being young, and a capacity for moving on and letting go - which will tie in explicitly to the film's story.
"Time to look up out and know...
How the shadows come and go."
Violin strains quietly come in to harmonize her melody... but not until after she is let to sing the spare first verse alone. The delayed occurrence of James Newton Howard's score evokes a sense of an old standard - a lullaby that at first was only a tool to soothe - retroactively taking on the significance of the world. Listen to it here.
The Village - 5.5/10
M. Night Shyamalan
1. The Village - 5.5/10
2. Signs - 4.5/10
3. The Happening - 4/10
4. Lady in the Water - 4/10
5. The Sixth Sense - 3.5/10 (yeah... I find the film objectionable.)