Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Village -- My thoughts before reading anyone else's reviews. Yes, spoilers included.

I enjoyed it. It was a 2-hour Outer Limits episode, and I enjoyed both the elements of the factual story and the attempts to explore the psychological and political nature of fear.

Taking those two elements separately -- because I think that was the movie's failure, to integrate these two aspects -- let's first discuss the story. I really enjoyed the subtle clues about the manufactured nature of the Village and its society and physical accoutrements. There was enough there to let you know that something about this utopia was "off," but not so much that you were distracted by it. I thought that the plot was one with which most people could identify and be sympathetic -- who doesn't long for a simpler way of life, especially an idealized version of a past that never existed, one where where men and women are equal in power and respect, and people don't seem to work very much, but can provide themselves with feasts every couple weeks or so? I also enjoyed the drawn-out nature of the reveal -- in Unbreakable (my favorite of his films), the biggest failure is the horrifically bad pacing up to and surrounding the twist. To first learn of the costume, then the nature of Walker's utopia, and then the practical details of the mechanics of the ruse, was just delightful, and much better than 110 minutes of "plot A" followed by 10 minutes of "plot B."

As far as the other piece of the film -- MNS's thoughts on fear -- I was less impressed with the execution, but as always, excited by the themes he attempted to work through. In particular, I enjoyed the exploration of whether or not fear can and should be used successfully as a tool of political control, and the potential ramifications when that fear takes on a life of its own (literally, in this case, with the incredibly creepy Noah, played by Adrien Brody). The attempt to incorporate the fear-based fables from our collective cultural literacy, in particular the overt Little Red Riding Hood themes, were less successful, in my opinion. The heavy-handedness of both blind Ivy's Pollyanna nature and the repetitive shots of trees and twigs and whatnot became tiresome rather than suspenseful, and the scene where she combats and defeats the Beast was too confusing and lacking in context and story support.

The acting was all brilliant. I would have liked to have seen more of Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) -- it was disconcerting to lose completely the most compelling character when the movie was only half over. I would have given Sigourney Weaver at least one more opportunity to demonstrate her humanity -- as touching as it was when Walker came to tell her of how he had sent his own child into The Woods to save hers, I'm tired of seeing her play the uber-bitch, and I wish we could have seen just a little more vulnerability from her character. Speaking of Walker, Hurt was brilliant, and I can't think of a thing to criticize. Adrien Brody's performance was ambiguous and discomfiting -- as it should have been, although it meant I was always uncomfortable when he was on screen.

Overall, I give it a B+. It was solidly entertaining, and lacked mainly in integration of the abstract themes with the story.
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