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Other Movies


The Village: A silly joke

Manoj Night Shyamalan's latest film, "The Village", is silly to  the point of appearing clownish. And, this is not even a comedy. It is a spooky movie, at least that is what the promos have been promising us for months. But Shyamalan, who is sometimes called  the modern Hitchcock, is no patch on the master of suspense. This  younger director certainly lacks the Hitchcockian class and  finesse.

Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard in

"The Village"

When I was watching "The Village" the other night (September 15 2004) in a Chennai (Madras) theatre just a couple of days before its release (September 17 2004) , I could not help feeling an all-pervading sense of being cheated. For every time, Shyamalan took me on a forbidding path, I noticed that at the end of it, the entire thing looked frivolous, even funny. When I had guessed the end midway through the movie, I had then dismissed it as something absurd. But, then, when that was what it was, I knew Shyamalan could never be a Hitchcock. Worse, when the climax unfolded, I asked myself, but is that it ? "The Village" is so ridiculous.

I felt similarly hoodwinked when I saw "The Sixth Sense" and,  more so, "Signs". Shyamalan has this problem: his last-reel  surprise or shock that he plans falls absolutely flat. And, the  fear he tries to create en-route is not really adult stuff. I  wonder whether even modern teenagers would care for this kind of scare-fest.

In "The Village", Shyamalan takes us to a remote hideout of men,  women and children in 19th century Pennsylania. They have  barricaded themselves with a thick forest, where and beyond which  reside evils in several forms. An eerie groan at night  highlights the mood of terror, that hooded guards try and keep out with watch-towers and huge fires. The evil in the woods is  supposed to lurk in red, and so nothing red goes in the village. No berries, and perhaps no tomatoes.

Otherwise, the village seems happy and carefree with a wonderful  communal rapport, barn dances, common meals in the open and, of  course, love and disappointment. Newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard as  blind Ivy Walker is excellent as the girl who falls in love with  her sister's suitor, Joaquin Phoenix as Lucius Hunt. It is this  part of the story where Shyamalan delves into disillusionment and  hope that appealed to me, because it is here that I thought that the director was being honest and far less hypocritical. The  scenes where Ivy conquers her handicap and fear to save her love  are narrated and shot with verve and spirit that the rest of the  film lacks.

Adrian Brody as the village idiot is convincing enough to that  reel when he acts one. But the moment Shyamalan decides to give  him additional responsibilities, he falls and fails in a way that  I felt that that the director was swinging his bat in the air !

Shyamalan needs to grow up, and despite an impressive star cast  of Sigourney Weaver and Brendan Gleeson among others, the director fumbles in the dark forest.

(This review was posted on this website on September 16 2004)

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