The movie received mixed reviews, with critics especially divided about the plausibility and payoff of the surprise ending. The film gave composer James Newton Howard his fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. Despite the initial mixed reaction, critics' opinion on the film has been more positive in recent years, and it has since developed a cult following, especially among M. Night Shyamalan fans.
Covington appears to be a small, isolated Pennsylvania village in the 19th century, whose residents live in fear of nameless creatures in the surrounding woods. They have constructed a large barrier of oil lanterns and watch towers that are constantly manned to keep watch for "those we don't speak of". It is explained that the villagers have a long-standing truce with the monsters; the villagers do not go into their woods, and the creatures do not enter their village.
After the funeral of a seven-year-old boy, Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) asks the village elders for permission to pass through the woods to get medical supplies from "the towns". His request is denied, and later his mother, Alice (Sigourney Weaver), admonishes him for wanting to go to the towns, which the villagers describe as "wicked places where wicked people live". The Elders seem to keep dark secrets of their own in black boxes, whose contents they keep hidden from their own offspring. After Lucius makes a short venture into the woods, the creatures leave warnings around the village in the form of splashes of red paint (referred to by the villagers only as "the bad color") on all the villagers' doors.
Meanwhile, Ivy Elizabeth Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), the blind daughter of the chief Elder, Edward Walker (William Hurt), informs Lucius that she has strong feelings for him, and he returns her affections. They arrange to be married, but things go horribly wrong when Noah Percy (Adrien Brody), a young man with an apparent developmental and learning disability, stabs Lucius with a knife because he is in love with Ivy himself. Noah is locked in a room until a decision is made about his fate.
Edward goes against the wishes of the other Elders, agreeing to let Ivy pass through the forest and seek out medicine for Lucius. Before she leaves, Edward explains the secret of the creatures: they are a "farce", bogeymen costumes created by the Elders to keep the children from entering the woods in an attempt to keep them from leaving the village. Edward does mention, however, that "those we don't speak of" were based upon legends he had heard at one time, of "real creatures" living in the woods. Ivy seems only partly convinced by this explanation, inquiring whether the skinned animals found in the village the previous night were "also farce".
While Ivy is traveling through the forest, one of the beasts suddenly attacks her. She tricks it into falling into a deep hole to its death. The creature is actually Noah in a costume that he had found previously under the floorboards of the room where he had been locked away after the stabbing.
Ivy eventually finds her way to the far edge of the woods, where she encounters a high, ivy-covered wall. After she climbs over the wall, a park ranger named Kevin Lupinski, driving a Land Rover with the words "Walker Wildlife Preserve" on the side, spots Ivy and is shocked to hear that she has come out of the woods. He learns that Ivy's last name is Walker.
During this time, it is revealed that the village was actually founded in the late 1970s when Edward Walker, professor of American history at the University of Pennsylvania, approached other people he met at a grief counseling clinic after his father had been murdered. He asked them whether they wished to join him in "an idea" he had. From this apparently grew "the village", a secluded town in the middle of a wildlife preserve purchased with Edward's family fortune, a place where they would sustain themselves, and be protected from any aspect of the outside world. The head ranger, Jay (M. Night Shyamalan), explains to Kevin that the Walker estate pays to maintain the ranger corps. The rangers make sure no one goes into the wildlife preserve to "disturb the animals", and the Walker estate pays the government to keep the entire wildlife preserve a no-fly zone.
Kevin secretly retrieves medicine from his ranger station, and Ivy returns to the village with the supplies. During her absence, the Elders opened their black boxes, each containing mementos from their lives in the outside world, including items related to their past traumas. All the Elders are gathered around Lucius' bed when one of the townsfolk informs them that Ivy has returned, and that she killed one of the monsters. Edward points out to Noah's grieving mother that his death will allow them to continue deceiving the rest of the villagers that there are creatures in the woods, and all the Elders take a vote to continue living in the village. Ivy arrives, kneels at Lucius' bedside and, clutching his hand, says "I'm back, Lucius."
- Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy Elizabeth Walker
- Joaquin Phoenix as Lucius Hunt
- Adrien Brody as Noah Percy
- William Hurt as Edward Walker
- Sigourney Weaver as Alice Hunt
- Brendan Gleeson as August Nicholson
- Cherry Jones as Mrs. Clack
- Celia Weston as Vivian Percy
- Frank Collison as Victor
- Jayne Atkinson as Tabitha Walker
- Judy Greer as Kitty Walker
- Fran Kranz as Christop Crane
- Liz Stauber as Beatrice
- Michael Pitt as Finton Coin
- Jesse Eisenberg as Jamison
- M. Night Shyamalan as Jay - "guard at desk"
- Charlie Hofheimer as Kevin Lupinski - "park ranger"
The film was originally titled The Woods Like other Shyamalan productions, this film had high levels of secrecy surrounding it, to protect the expected twist ending that was a known Shyamalan trademark. Despite that, the script was stolen over a year before the film was released, prompting many "pre-reviews" of the film on several Internet film sites and much fan speculation about plot details. The village seen in the film was built in its entirety in one field outside Chadds Ford Pennsylvania. An adjacent field contained an on-location temporary sound stage. Production on the film started in October 2003, with delays because some scenes needing fall foliage could not be shot because of a late fall season. Principal photography was wrapped up in mid-December of that year. In April and May 2004, several of the lead actors were called back to the set. Reports noted that this seemed to have something to do with a change to the film's ending, and, in fact, the film's final ending differs from the ending in a stolen version of the script that surfaced a year earlier; in the final version, Ivy meets a friendly ranger and a new ending scene was added after that with all the Elders and Ivy around Lucius' bed.
The Village has received mixed reviews from film critics, earning a "rotten" certification at Rotten Tomatoes with only 43% giving it a positive appraisal, based on 206 reviews and an average score of 5.5/10. The consensus reads, "The Village is appropriately creepy, but Shyamalan's signature twist ending disappoints." At Metacritic, the film holds a score of 44 out of 100, based on 40 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film one star and wrote: "The Village is a colossal miscalculation, a movie based on a premise that cannot support it, a premise so transparent it would be laughable were the movie not so deadly solemn ... To call the ending an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It's a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It was all a dream. It's so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don't know the secret anymore." The film is listed on Ebert's "Most Hated" list. There were also comments that the film, while raising questions about conformity in a time of "evil," did little to "confront" those themes. Slate's Michael Agger commented that Shyamalan was continuing in a pattern of making "sealed-off movies that [fall] apart when exposed to outside logic."
The movie did have a number of admirers. Critic Jeffrey Westhoff commented that though the film had its shortcomings, these did not necessarily render it a bad movie, and that "Shyamalan's orchestration of mood and terror is as adroit as ever". Philip Horne of The Daily Telegraph in a later review noted "this exquisitely crafted allegory of American soul-searching seems to have been widely misunderstood".
The soundtrack by Howard has also been widely praised, and was nominated by the American Film Institute as one of the Best Film Scores and the Academy Award for Best Original Score. Finnish musician Tuomas Holopainen has also expressed his love of the soundtrack in interviews, describing it as "the most beautiful soundtrack of all time" from "definitely the most beautiful movie" and explaining that the soundtrack has helped him through personal crises.
Simon & Schuster, publishers of the 1995 young adults' book Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix, claimed that the film had stolen ideas from the book. The book had a plot which features a village whose inhabitants are secretly forced to live in the 1830s when the year is actually 1996. The plot of Shyamalan's movie had several similarities to the book. They both involve a village, which is actually a park in the present day (Shyamalan uses a late nineteenth-century village), have young heroines on a search for medical supplies, and both have adult leaders bent on keeping the children in their village from discovering the truth. In Haddix's novel, the truth is that the village is a genetic experiment; in the movie, that the adults had decided to withdraw from the outside world.
The film grossed $114 million in the U.S., and $142 million in international markets. Its worldwide box office totalled $256 million, the tenth highest grossing PG-13 movie of 2004.
The film was released on VHS and DVD on January 11, 2005. A Blu-ray version of the film has yet to be released and is currently the only M. Night Shyamalan film that doesn't have a Blu-ray version. The Village was also the last M. Night Shyamalan film to be released on VHS.
Awards and nominations
- 2005 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards
- Won - Top Box Office Film — James Newton Howard
- 2004 Academy Awards (Oscars)
- Nominated - Best Original Score — James Newton Howard
- 2005 10th Empire Awards
- Nominated - Best Actress — Bryce Dallas Howard
- Nominated - Best Newcomer — Bryce Dallas Howard
- Nominated - Best Director — M. Night Shyamalan
- 2005 Evening Standard British Film Awards
- Won - Best Technical/Artistic Achievement — Roger Deakins
- 2005 MTV Movie Awards
- Nominated - Best Breakthrough Female Performance — Bryce Dallas Howard
- 2005 Motion Picture Sound Editors (Golden Reel Award)
- Nominated - Best Sound Editing in a Feature: Music, Feature Film — Thomas S. Drescher
- 2004 Online Film Critics Society Awards
- Nominated - Best Breakthrough Performance — Bryce Dallas Howard
- 2005 Teen Choice Awards
- Nominated - Choice Movie Scary Scene — Bryce Dallas Howard, Ivy Walker waits at the door for Lucius Hunt.
- Nominated - Choice Movie: Thriller
The film's score was composed by James Newton Howard, and feature solo violinist Hilary Hahn. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score (but lost to Finding Neverland).
- Track listing
- "Noah Visits"
- "What Are You Asking Me?"
- "The Bad Color"
- "Those We Don't Speak Of"
- "Will You Help Me?"
- "I Cannot See His Color"
- "The Gravel Road"
- "Race to Resting Rock"
- "The Forbidden Line"
- "The Vote"
- "It Is Not Real"
- "The Shed Not to Be Used"
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "The Village (2004)", Box Office Mojo
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 "Village, The (2004): Reviews". CNET Networks, Inc
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Village, The (2004) Movie Reviews". IGN Entertainment, Inc
- ↑ "Lycos review of the Village". Membres.lycos.fr
- ↑ "Pre-review of ''The Village''". Webcitation.org
- ↑ "Pre-review of ''The Village'' at". Horrorlair.com
- ↑ IMdb.com - FAQ for The Village "Where exactly was the movie filmed? Did they use historical buildings or did they build everything?"
- ↑ "Change to ending of ''The Village''". Comingsoon.net
- ↑ "More views of ''The Village'' – aerial". Webcitation.org
- ↑ "The Village Script - Dialogue Transcript". Script-o-rama.com
- ↑ "Ebert's Most Hated". Rogerebert.suntimes.com
- ↑ "The Reel Deal: ''The Village''". Oregonherald.com
- ↑ Yglesias, Matthew. "Village Idiot". Slate.com
- ↑ Northwest Herald's The Village review
- ↑ "telegraph.co.uk". telegraph.co.uk
- ↑ "HollywoodBowlBallot". (PDF)
- ↑ "Stolen idea in ''The Village?''". Film.guardian.co.uk
- American Cinematographer Magazine, August 2004. Interview with Roger Deakins on The Village's cinematography.
- "Disney and Shyamalan in your back yard" - Website by a local resident describing the filming of The Village in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
- The Woods unspecified draft script for The Village
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