The Village ★★★★★

95/100

Serenely volatile cinema, and as gorgeously engulfing as anything M. Night Shyamalan has ever crafted. I usually try to not be one of those viewers that proclaims a particular film as "misunderstood" or "underrated", but I still can't fathom how the general audience sees this as a "bad Twilight Zone episode", especially because even (and not only) on a surface level, The Village is astonishing.

With Roger Deakins' cinematography establishing unprecedented atmosphere and James Newton Howard scoring one of the finest soundtracks of the 21st Century; The Village flourishes because of its visual/aural elements, both of which compliment the tender love story at its core. M. Night tackles this tale with the mindset of being a genuine artist with something to say, and as a result, typical Hollywood expectations were shockingly upended.

While both The Sixth Sense and Signs are obvious works of a master and bursting with an ever-present sense of control, The Village is the only film from M. Night that feels so precisely calculated that even one wrong step would make the entire Jenga puzzle fall. It's interwoven with a structure that plays with typical Shyamalan setpieces and conventions, but The Village reaches out and yearns for a more romantic presence.

I'm not really one for cynicism, but it does take a sincere romance in a film to make my heart flutter, and The Village accomplishes that in spades. Hands, gestures, embraces, and silent glances culminate in a work of immense passion and truthful elegance, and M. Night plays around with delicate camera movements and quiet displays of beauty in order to collapse the frame into something splendidly idyllic.

In particular, a setpiece moment begins with suspense on its mind and ends with the clasped force of two hands joining in unison, running as curtains bellow and space compacts into an image of two individuals finally expressing their unbridled love for each other. It's a perfect mesh of Shyamalan's original ambitions and his quest to discover unknown details within his own stories. Like the greatest filmmakers, Shyamalan is always searching, and The Village is evidence of formal innovations paying rich emotional dividends.

Cinema is the home for many stories, characters, feelings, and journeys, but The Village reveals that even a subtle proclamation of love on a foggy porch can carry a viewer into the upper echelons of compassion and collective empathy. The Village is Shyamalan's first post-9/11 film (whereas Signs was in the midst of the confusion right after), and within its story, innocence is contrasted with darkness, and the hope that cloudy skies might reveal light once again. Although those rays of sun may shine, a sea of grey remains. The aftermath is just a reminder of the chaos.

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