The Village was the fourth effort by young filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan following; The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. All three well-regarded films. Some more than others. And the Village was the first film to be bashed by both critics and fans of Shyamalan creating the infamy that still to this day surrounds Shyamalan. Here's why:
I think that this film gets a lot of undeserved hate. Even after a small cult following has, over time, built up in favor of this Shyamalan film. And I have to say that I was a part of that mindset that this film was misjudged, wrongfully marketed, and undeservingly ridiculed. However, watching it now, I vividly understand the flaws this film has. I don't think it is bad, but nor do I think it's great. I think it is good intentioned with some major cinematic errors that would make any other film with a less captivating premise seem awful. Because, this film does have a captivating premise. On paper, everything narratively and thematically is engaging and enticing, for me at least. Where this film falters is on the technical side. Specifically in the choices made in the sound department. If you've seen the film you understand me. If not, or even if you know the polarizing twist, you don't. So, to keep the purity of that narrative turn, I will tread lightly in my coverage of it.
The problems that are consistent throughout the film, as I mentioned before, lies in the sound choices. And by that I mean, what Shyamalan and his post-production team chose to let the audience hear. The choice is simply to lead the audience on to something that is told and shown to us, but then later goes back on its word. Not giving us a revelation, but blatantly lying to us. As if we are supposed to forget what we have believed through sound and accept what we hear now. And it's even worse after the twist, because Shyamalan still tries to fool us. Even though, we know the truth. Now, if that twist was off the table: the sound choices would be mostly effective, but it is because of this twist that the sound choices come off as a mockery and a trick on the audience. It makes us feel like fools afterwards because if its auditory ruse. That might have been the point on the creative side, but at the end of the day, it was a bad decision from the people responsible.
Okay, now that is out of the way, I will say that there is a lot to admire about this film visually (thanks to the great Roger Deakins) and thematically. It poses an interesting, but polarizing theory to us. I think it is meant to be polarizing and we have that choice to lean one way or the other. That choice is effective, as are a lot of other things in this film. But still, it is incredibly difficult for me to enjoy this film because of that poor decision on the technical side of things and because of how prominent it is throughout the entire film. I really expected more Shyamalan and can safely say this is his first cinematic failure. On the flip side of that, it might be my personal favorite of his stories. The romance (yes, this is a romance story over any other genre) is strong. So strong that there is a beautiful connection I have with Lucius and Ivy's relationship. It feels like a Shyamalan romance and is heartbreakingly strong. And that is due to the acting (all around the table) and Shyamalan's skill of directing those actors. It is prominent throughout all of his previous films and arguably most prominent here. At least, most prominent for me.