M Night Shyamalan’s fourth film follows the successes of his first three films, the last of which, Signs, was met with less enthusiasm than his debut and follow-up. The Village, however, is a definite return to form for the writer-director.
The story is set in a secluded village, whose inhabitants live in fear of ‘those we do not speak of’, mysterious creatures who inhabit the nearby forest. The film is primarily a thriller, but within this is a tale of romance too. The two genres sit comfortably together, neither ever feeling out of place.
The film’s impressive cast is on absolutely top form here. Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerising as the quiet but courageous Lucius Hunt. William Hurt brings both authority and heart to the role of the village leader. Most impressive of all is Bryce Dallas Howard as the heroine of the film, Ivy. She brings both strength and vulnerability to a wonderful character. Adrien Brody also shines as the tragic Noah.
Shyamalan’s direction effectively creates an atmosphere of mystery. Most noticeable is the number of occasions when the face of a character cannot be seen while they speak, the camera focussing rather on the back of their head. This helps create the sense of secrecy that is dominant in the film. The film looks exquisite, colours and symbolism used prominently and to great effect. James Newton Howard’s score is haunting, helping add to the atmosphere.
The story itself is cleverly woven and includes a twist in the tale as is usual of a Shyamalan’s recent work. The twist works well, while probably guessed by some viewers, is still an effective turn of events.
Though doubted by many, The Village is a touching and thought-provoking film that is well worth taking the time to see.