Shyamalan 4: The Village (2004)

or, where did they get all the stone from?

 

the-village

The one thing about being blind is that you won’t have to watch Unbreakable.

Upon my soul, I am verily disturbed by the usage of the English language with the confines of this film.  It’s as if the author is reciting a half-remembered Lord’s prayer spoken by Yoda.  It oft distracts from the spectacular shots of flickering light provided by the eye of Roger Deakins and the wistful, subtle score from James Newton Howard.  (Is it fair to praise a film in a series on M. Night Shyamalan by emphasising the achievements of others?  I will, because I can’t deny that it is the work of those two that remains the greatest appeal of this film.  And I’m not an auteurist – it’s nothing more than an empty theory designed to give legitimacy to a burgeoning medium.  Yeah, that’s right Truffaut… I went there.)  Mightily, the main concern of my mind whilst watching this film (after re-sitting some end-of-year finals at university) was that William Hurt looked exactly like my father.  I tell him this on occasions, and he always thinks I’m talking about John Hurt…

 

Even writing like that is exhausting.  The Village is a genuinely enjoyable film in spite of itself, because it skirts very close to the worst possible condemnation that modern society has to offer… ‘problematic’.  The greatest sin is not its presentation of those surviving trauma (perhaps they all went to live in a valley because of self-righteous twitter accounts), but the fact that it features not one, but two actors portraying individuals living with a disability.  Adrian Brody’s performance is about as good as he can manage (not very), and whilst appalling, doesn’t quite top the top five ‘inappropriate performances by an actor of disability that we will get disproportionately upset about’ seen on screen:

  1. Sean Penn
  2. Anyone who has played Joseph Merrick (lifetime achievement award to Bradley Cooper)
  3. Eddie Redmayne
  4. That kid from Glee
  5. Scott Bakula in that episode of Quantum Leap where he wakes up in the body of an individual who lives with Down Syndrome.

At what point in the making of this film did Joaquin Phoenix realise he should stop pinning his hopes on Shyamalan (and – urgh – Casey Affleck) and pray to the god of cinema that Paul Thomas Anderson would pick him as his muse?

Thorn

In Old English, there was a letter in the alphabet called the ‘thorn’ that stood for the diagraph ‘th’.  When written it looks a bit like a ‘y’.  Some people, when seeing the word  Small thorne, thought it was pronounced ‘ye’, and this led to a thousand faux-historical restaurants or outlets called ‘Ye Olde Shoppe’ or some such garbage.  And that ultimately sums up Shyamalan – he’s a man who thinks that they once said ‘ye’, not ‘the’.

Despite all this, it is an extraordinary film, and one where the revelations spiral and twist within a beautiful framework of rich, dark colour and an ethereal, trembling score.  You are never quite sure of what is real and what is a fiction, which is true of all the monsters that we live with.

 

Shyamalan rankings:

 

  1. The Village
  2. The Sixth Sense
  3. Signs
  4. Unbreakable

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