M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Village, while not a bad film by any stretch, suffers because of the reputation of its director: if you’ve seen any of his previous movies, you know that at some point there’s going to come a pretty major plot twist, most likely in the last reel of the movie. And if you know there’s a twist coming, it’s hard to lose yourself in the here-and-now of the film–you’re always waiting for the reveal and looking out for clues instead of simply soaking the movie in. It’s Audience-as-Detective instead of Audience-as-Spectator, which makes for a totally different experience.
|The Village (2004)|
|Written and Directed By:||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Starring:||Joaquin Phoenix Bryce Dallas Howard Adrien Brody William Hurt Sigourney Weaver|
That experience doesn’t have to be a bad one, of course, but in the case of
The rest of the cast, however, is wasted. They all perform to the best of their considerable abilities, but Shyamalan simply doesn’t give them enough to do. He’s formed a supporting cast with actors as talented as Phoenix, William Hurt, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson and Judy Greer, but only Hurt and Brody gets any meat to their parts (and Brody’s is really just the kind of showy mentally-challenged role so usually loved by Oscar).
As always, Shyamalan’s sense of visual style shines through. His camerawork (with the ever-excellent cinematographer Roger Deakins) remains strong, crafting gorgeous compositions painted mainly with yellows, oranges and browns (as in The Sixth Sense, the color red takes on special significance here and is used sparingly). His camera frequently seems to catch the characters in private moments and hangs back from them, making us feel like we’re listening in on conversations we’re really not supposed to be hearing, or focuses not on the character speaking but on the one being spoken to. I’d love to see what Shyamalan could do with a straight drama, or with any movie where he wasn’t quite so worried about trying to trick his audience.