I did my very best not to learn anything about The Village after seeing the first real trailer for it. The makers did their very best not to tell anyone, anywhere, anything about the bulk of the film. The multi-page article on it I read in the EW had literally nothing to say about the content of the film; less actually than that trailer. And I did my best not to think too much about the film before I could watch it.
I failed on that last point.
I figured out the main “twist” the main crux of The Village weeks ago, perhaps months. You see, I like to do a thing where, knowing only the basic premise of a film I expect has a twist, I try to determine what the least likely and least satisfying twist would be for the movie to have and still be in keeping with the writer/director’s style and with keeping audiences satisfied on some level. I did it withSigns, and while my guess fits better (in my opinion) than the actual ending of the movie, it was not the one in the movie. I guessed wrong; very close to the themes and events and characters in the movie, but wrong. With The Village I tried the same thing, but I was right.
With Signs my guess at the “what” was incorrect, but the “Why” and how it effected the characters was spot-on. With The Village my guess at the “what” was spot on, but I couldn’t quite come up with the “why” or the “how” and I kept wanting it to be more complicated than it ended up being, more fantastic.
Knowing in advance what the secret was (or at least what wrong secret I was trying to get to fit with the things happening in the movie so I could write another fun review) made all the little things that don’t quite fit stand out. Every thing that was going on that didn’t sync with the idea I had for the “what” stood out to me because I was trying to think of how to explain it away in my pseudo-review. And then when I was right, when I was dead-on-right, I was as “shocked” as the rest of the audience at the reveal, because there were so many wrong things I’d basically given up on my idea and the premise of the pseudo-review; no one would believe my premise who was watching the movie. There was too much that didn’t fit, or was missing.
Or was there?
I’ll go watch it again. Soon. Maybe later tonight. I’ll try paying attention a little closer this time. There are more than two surprises in this movie, though two of them I figured out before they were revealed, and one of those was the crux. So there is still more to see, more to watch for.
And I think there is … more missing. Scenes and moments cut out to bring the film in at exactly two hours. Yes, it is paced slowly. Some would say it was paced slowly even considering the pacing of Shyamalan’s prior works. And I believe that many audiences would have become restless were the film to take longer. But I was drawn into the characters and their relationships, at this village and its people and its culture, and there were some things that were just not investigated enough, some details not quite shown but hinted at that I wanted to see shown. And I’ve read that the ending was changed or reshot and edited, that the people involved do not deny it was changed in some subtle ways and that some preferred the original ending better. I would like to know what has changed, what M. Night Shyamalan’s original ideas were, and how they differed. This ending, well, the last few moments, the last shot, the last cut, it just seemed … incomplete and abrupt to me.
Just because the reveal has been made, the secrets are out, does not mean I want to leave these people, this village.
I am simultaneously satisfied and dissatisfied by the movie and my own mind both and each.
And here is where the spoilers come from, your own mind:
If you know anything about this movie, you know the premise is that there is a village of people living in what appears (from the trailers) to be … around the 1800’s. The village is in a valley, in a clearing, surrounded on all sides by woods. There are “creatures” or “monsters” beyond the edge of the clearing, in the woods, but there is a “stalemate” or “agreement” between the people who settled the village and the creatures: If the people of the village do not trespass the border into the forest, the creatures will not trespass into the village. You also know that it is a film by M. Night Shyamalan, whose movies The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs have together earned over $600million domestically, has built a career based around a surprise reveal in the final moments of his movies. So you can reasonably assume that The Village will have some sort of clever twist, something that has been true the entire movie and changes the nature of the movie from what you thought you were watching, making the movie good for repeat viewings so you can see the little things you missed that might have told you what was going on, things that make a new kind of sense in a new kind of context.
And with the information in that paragraph alone, I have given away the whole thing. Well, at least as much as I figured out before the lights dimmed and the movie started, anyway. If I took the first sentence from that paragraph I would be giving a lot less away. And if you hadn’t already figured it out, you have now. But I did warn you there would be spoilers, didn’t I? In the title of the review, then in the preface to the above paragraph. If you’ve read this far, you have to have wanted to know what it was. And now you either do, or … still aren’t thinking.
Which is a fine way to go into a movie like this. There is enough other stuff going on that if you weren’t thinking about figuring it out the whole time the movie might be grossly more satisfying. Try to enjoy it, either way.