(My apologies if this specific topic has been covered elsewhere, but all I could find was “the twist sucks” type threads, and I think this is so different as to warrant a new thread.)
I finally got around to seeing The Village, and I thought it was simply amazing. Not as a thriller, not as a horror movie, not as an “M. Night Twist” movie, but instead as an allegory about the US government’s use of fear as a control device in the post 9/11 era. This is a movie Michael Moore might have made, had he a subtle, artistic bone in his body.
Stick with me for a minute.
There’s a billionaire’s son who sets himself up as a leader, with the help of some of his friends. He basically buys his own country, with the help of his Daddy’s money.
These folks are so frightened by murders and other violent crimes that they decide to “protect” (manipulate) their children and friends by inventing scary things (Those We Do Not Talk About) which may or may not exist. There’s some questionable reports that perhaps these things might exist (a passage in an old book), but they’re not really sure, nor do they really believe that they exist, so they fabricate “proof” of their existence. These scary things are not, incidentally, the scary things which really do exist and should be feared and worked against(murderers, etc.), but they are easier tools with which to control people’s emotions and get them to do what the leaders want.
Forget Al Qaeda in Afghanastan, how 'bout some WMDs in Iraq?
The only safety to be had is in returning to a simpler time, a quaint time when no one was bad or got hurt. Of course, this time never really happened in the way they wish it had, but the leaders can instead try to force people to live the way they wish it had. (Notice the absence of 1897 illnesses, social problems, women’s rights struggles, etc.)
Has anyone else noticed the return of 1950’s fashion in clothes, not to mention doctors and pharmacists refusing to prescribe or order birth control pills on “moral” grounds?
There’s a system of colors to further manipulate people’s emotional state - to get them more scared when they become complacent. Blue is OK, Yellow is safe enough, Red is bad, scary, run-away time.
When we learn half-way through the movie that the monsters are in fact fabrications, the terror isn’t over yet. Why? Because the dim-witted member of society has taken the stories to heart. He has, in effect, become that which the leaders feared. He becomes a violent person not because he is evil, but because he is ignorant and believes what those in power tell him. He is fascinated with the idea of the monsters, and so he becomes one, chasing down the woman he loves in a violent fashion. He doesn’t understand the reality of the situation, so he becomes dangerous.
How many people still believe in WMDs, even though reports have been issued by our very government disavowing them? How many people support violence and killing in Iraq because of weapons which don’t exist and never have?
The movie was brilliant as a coming of age story, as well. Blind, fearful Ivy triumphs where strong, unafraid Lucius could not. I’m still trying to work out the archetypal import of Ivy’s blindness – I’m sure it has something to do with Justice, but that’s still working its way through my brain. And “Lucius”: light, illumination, inspiration, etc. Very cool.
As for some other complaints I’ve heard:
“The twist sucked.”
Meh. I don’t think it was the point of the movie. There doesn’t have to be a twist to be a good movie. I’ve even argued with my husband that there wasn’t a twist at all. With my rudimentary knowledge of crops, illnesses and carpentry of 1870, I knew it was modern day long before the end. There were surprising events that unfolded, but no single twist that changed the entire meaning of the movie, as in Sixth Sense. Didn’t matter. It was a good movie without a twist. M. Night has said repeatedly in interviews that he doesn’t want to be known as “the twist” director. (There wasn’t a twist in Signs.) If you go into it relying on a twist, you will be disappointed.
“Town kids would have climbed the wall and found the village, guards or no.”
The village was far, far in the woods (1/2 a day’s walk to the hidden road, then more to the highway). It’s not likely that kids climbing the wall would get so far as to find the village before getting called home to dinner. Plus, it’s unclear how often there was an Elder in TWDNSA costume patrolling the woods. Town kid or no, I’d shit myself if I came upon one of those guys in the middle of the wood.
“What’s with the stilted speech patterns?”
If the village was a purposefully recreated historical site, the history teacher and other leaders could believably have decided to use and teach those speech patterns. The speech was deliberate, respectful and thoughtful, all traits I would encourage if I was trying to prevent violence and confrontation. After just a few days of talking like that, it does in fact come naturally. (Ask people who work at Renaissance Faires or Historic Sites.)
To me, the most terrifying thing was the uncertainty of the ending. Will Ivy share what she has learned? Will she bring enlightenment to the people of the village who have been lied to? Or will she collude with the Elders and keep people ignorant? More chillingly, should she? After all, the system of deception and fear works pretty well. It keeps people under control. It (mostly) keeps violence and murder out of the Village. It reinforces the idea that the monsters are out there in the woods and not in our hearts. And that’s really scary.