Concluding our ‘October Frights’ is the last M. Night Shyamalan film made at Disney, 2004’s The Village.
Coming off the success of Signs and The Sixth Sense, expectations were high for Shyamalan’s fourth movie. The Village opened big but dropped off the box office charts quickly. Audiences seemed to be tiring of the magic that Shyamalan brought to the screen.
In the age of COVID, it’s time to go back to The Village and look at the original architects of self-isolation bubble groups.
In the Covington woods exists a small village with hundreds of people. They live simple lives of the nineteenth century, and they steer clear of the woods. Led by Edward Walker (William Hurt) the people of the village are guided by rules established by the village elders, and they stay to themselves.
What everyone in this village avoids is traveling into the woods. There are creatures which are dubbed ‘those we do not speak of’ hiding amongst the trees. People live and die in the village without ever travelling to the local towns. Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) petitions to travel to the towns to seek out medicine that could be used to prevent needless deaths. August Nicholson (Brendan Gleeson) just buried his son, and Lucius uses this as a reason to venture out into the woods. With his petition turned town, Lucius meets Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) and they form a strong bond. Their bond blossoms to love and an engagement. Not everyone is happy with this news. Noah Percy (Adrien Brody) is in love with Ivy and in a fit of jealousy stabs Lucius.
Without additional medicine from the distant towns, Lucius will die. Ivy pleads with her father to let her journey through the woods for help. Before departing her father Edward tells her that the creatures they have feared are a mirage that town elders use to keep the villagers at home. Determined and comforted in the knowledge that there is nothing to fear, Ivy sets out for help.
Alone in the woods, Ivy, who is blind, struggles during her supposed safe journey. Even though she knows that the monsters are fake, something is lurking in the woods for Ivy, and it means to do her harm.
Bryce Dallas Howard is brilliant in the role of Ivy. Not only does the movie rely on her to do the heavy lifting and propel the story forward, she embodies a wonderful character that anyone in the village would fall in love with. Howard makes Ivy the strongest of the village with a fierce personality of being brave, compassionate, and intelligent.
Joaquin Phoenix walks a fine line (pun intended) as Lucius. At times Lucius is a strong-willed young man who seeks to go beyond the village boundary, but he is also a dutiful son to his mother Alice (Sigourney Weaver). His devotion to Ivy is paramount, and even in an ‘attack’ by the creatures of the woods, the bond between Ivy and Lucius is so strong that Ivy knows that Lucius will come to be with her, which he does.
The relationship between Ivy and Lucius is the best one in the village. Shyamalan has done a great job in trying to show balance between Ivy and Lucius. During times of crisis Ivy waits for Lucius to take her hand to safety. When Lucius is hurt, it is Ivy who must take the lead and steer the couple out of trouble.
I remember liking The Village when I saw it at the theatres and after watching it again, I can’t find anything wrong with the film.
Fun Film Facts
- Kirsten Dunst was originally supposed to play Ivy but dropped out to star in Elizabethtown.
- Ashton Kutcher was originally cast as Noah.
- Director Shyamalan put the cast through a 19th Century boot camp to get ready for the production.
- This is the second film Joaquin Phoenix has made with Shyamalan. The part of Lucius was written with Phoenix in mind.
- Critic Roger Ebert has listed The Village on his Most Hated list of films.
- Apparently it took eleven weeks to construct the set.
- The movie almost received an R rating for the sound effect during the stabbing of Lucius. When the sound effect was removed the MPAA was willing to give the film a lower rating.
- The film was originally titled The Woods but had to be changed when another film was released the same year with the title The Woods.
- Director Shyamalan has a bit part in the film at the end of the movie.
- Jesse Eisenberg has a bit part in the film.
The Golden Popcorn Bucket Award
The Village gets a 4 Golden Popcorn Bucket rating. The film was panned by critics when it was released with Roger Ebert writing some incredibly condescending and idiotic comments about the tone and the overall story arc in the film.
Watching The Village today is a shock to the system. The social isolation and bubbles that we have been living in for the last few months has made many fear contact with others and worry about venturing outside of our homes. The people in The Village are seeking safety from the violence of the world so they voluntarily choose to hide.
I envy the people of The Village because I wish I could have done what they did in the age of COVID-19. The real lesson of the movie is that no matter how much you isolate yourself, basic human emotions will always lead to problems. Fear, hatred, and jealousy are human nature and we cannot avoid these feelings.
The movie may use well known plot devices, but it is the actors who make the story so powerful. Viewers can connect with anyone in the village, and people who have suffered through lockdowns, and are still going through social isolation and stay at home orders, will feel the horror of The Village in a more personal way.
No one is perfect, but critics were incredibly unfair to Shyamalan and this movie. The Village gets better with age and this is a movie worth watching again.
Next week, ‘Touchstone and Beyond’ journeys through the world of politics with Kevin Costner’s 2008 film Swing Vote.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Produced by Touchstone Pictures
- Joaquin Phoenix as Lucius Hunt
- William Hurt as Edward Walker
- Sigourney Weaver as Alice Hunt
- Adrien Brody as Noah Percy
- Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy Walker
- Brendan Gleeson as August Nicholson
Release Date: July 30, 2004
Budget: $60 Million
Box Office Gross:
Domestic = $114,197,520
Worldwide = $256,697, 520