Making the Grades
M. Night Shyamalan is a master at building suspense.
Before the opening credits come to an end, he has the eerie musical score built to a fevered pitch. And although we have an uneasy desire to peek over our shoulder, Shyamalan keeps the camera focused straight ahead. He lets that tingly feeling crawl across the back of our necks and move down our spines-proving that anticipation is sometimes more frightening than reality.
However, this writer/producer/director does more than just make things go bump in the dark. In The Village, he also gives us a case study in fear, a daily emotion many of us feel, if only for a fleeting moment.
Such is not the case for the people in the small, isolated community of Covington, Pennsylvania, where fear is a constant. While their life in the late 18th century seems simple, they are bound together by more than their daily routine. Out there-in the woods-lives "Those We Don't Speak Of".
An uneasy truce exists between the two groups. It keeps the villagers from venturing into the woods and the creatures of the forest from invading the town. Still, even the burning torches that surround their homes and the posted guards can't alleviate the sensation of constant danger the townsfolk feel when the unknown beings begin to moan.p> Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix), however, yearns to know what lies beyond. Wanting to seek help, he asks the Elders of the village to let him travel to the nearby towns. Hesitant to grant his request, Edward Walker (William Hurt) and the other community leaders delay answering him. His mother Alice (Sigourney Weaver) also begs him to stay at home.
But, when their tenuous treaty is upset, the community's dark secrets begin to leak out. The forest dwellers paint ominous warnings on the villagers' doors and make menacing advances. They threaten the security of everyone, including the young blind woman, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) and the simple-minded Noah (Adrien Brody).
Suddenly, bravery becomes the settlement's most valuable commodity.
Other than one scene of brutal, physical violence, Shyamalan unfolds his story without delving into the horror and gore of so many scary scripts. Contrasting the lush green fields and carefully maintained homes of the village with the dark, tangled branches and deadfall in the forest, he clearly marks out the boundaries of safety. Yet even idyllic looking locations don't always protect people from intruding human foibles.
While the film doesn't always maintain its intensity level, The Village is still an entertaining choice for older teens who might enjoy a little spooky suspense without unnecessary content. Shyamalan's unique camera angles and signature shots (look for his mirrored images) also keep audiences involved.
However, the movie's impact may not end when the reel stops rolling. Living in a world full of troubling times and events ourselves, the script can prompt a good discussion on how we face fears-whether we live in a little village or a big city.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Village.
The Elders did all in their power to protect their people including posting guards and having contingency plans. Despite all their efforts, were they able to guarantee the complete safety of everyone? Is there a difference between making efforts to be safe and becoming obsessive with safety measures?
When Ivy is afraid, she covers her ears and sings. Do you have ways to talk yourself through moments of fear? How do you boost your courage?
What effects does the director use to build suspense? How do things like sound effects, musical score and camera angles add to the overall feel of a film? What scene do you consider to be the scariest in this movie?