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stephen_speicher

Shyamalan: The Village, etc.

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That is a good example of one of the little touches in the film underscoring the theme. What makes this a very good film esthetically is that EVERYTHING in it integrates to, and underscores, the essential theme.

What makes it a good film, philosophically, is that it deals with an important moral theme -- The clash between those who are motivated by love and values (heroes Lucius and Ivy) versus those who are motivated by fear (everybody else) -- and the heroes take the right side.

By Comcast! I am restored!!

***** SPOILERS GALORE **************

Mrs. Speicher,

I hope you had a nice week.

I have, of course, given the film and your evaluation some thought over the past week of "downtime."

At one point, I even considered re-reading Miss Rand's "Art of Fiction" just to be sure I knew what I was saying. But I decided against that and so, might commit errors in this post.

Instead of a re-reading, I thought to rather first list all instances of conflict in the movie in order to establish which conflict qualifies as a "clash."

1. The psychological and political conflict that all the non-elder villagers had arising from "Those we don't speak of." [TWDSO] I say 'psychological' because their fear of the forest owed to a justifiably malevolent view of TWDSO and 'political' because the TWDSO were real.

2. The political conflict between Lucius and the psychopath who turned TWDSO.

3. The political conflict between Ivy and the psychopath who turned TWDSO.

4. The political conflict between the elders and Lucius, who wanted to go beyond the village.

5. The psychological conflict in the psychopath who was purportedly "in love" with Ivy.

Now, if I remember correctly, all psychological conflicts are dramatic (conflicts occurring in consciousness) while all political conflicts are melodramatic (conflicts occurring in the physical world).

The most intense conflicts in "Village" are the psychopath vs. Lucius (the stabbing), the psychopath vs. Ivy (his end), and the psychopath's supposed (although we're not really supposed to understand him) motivation by some warped love of Ivy - or, if you like, a fear of losing her to Lucius.

Ivy does not show any real indignation when she's told that TWDSO are a hoax, so that conflict is inessential.

The conflict between Lucius and the elders is also inconsequential as Lucius is out of action for a good chunk of the film.

So, I hold that the real clash is not between those conscious actors motivated by political and/or psychological fear versus those motivated by love per se, but a clash between one actor motivated by a psychological fear and the heroes who are motivated by love. Lucius and Ivy are never really in conflict with the elders; their beef is with the psychopath, the only person who was able to discover what TWDSO were, the one who broke out of the village boundaries early on.

In other words, the clash you speak of is between the active seeker who went mad or was mad and who let fear blind him into attempted murder of other active seekers on one hand; and between the active seeker who went mad or was mad and the politically-passive, blind lover who braved the unknown (only because of love) on the other.

The message here, I submit, is that man's reason will drive him fearfully mad (as it had done in the city outside the village and with the psychopath) while man's blind faith (thiswordly or otherwordly) would engender brotherly and romantic love in the fullest. In other words, what you don't know won't kill you - ignorance is bliss.

After all, isn't love blind?

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** NO SPOILERS **

I thought to rather first list all instances of conflict in the movie in order to establish which conflict qualifies as a "clash."

[... list of "clashes" ...]

Some of the things in your list, like #1, didn't happen in the movie and, all in all, I think you missed the most essential conflict. None of these relate to the REAL theme which is -- The clash between those who are motivated by love and values (heroes Lucius and Ivy) versus those who are motivated by fear (everybody else).

The most intense conflicts in "Village" are [.. event ...], [...event...], and [... event ...].

All of these "conflicts" in the story involve a feeble-minded minor character who has no real choice. He only serves to set up situations in which the main characters have to make a choice. By focusing on the minor character and his problems, you completely miss the real conflict.

The message here, I submit, is that man's reason will drive him fearfully mad (as it had done in the city outside the village and with the psychopath) while man's blind faith (thiswordly or otherwordly) would engender brotherly and romantic love in the fullest.  In other words, what you don't know won't kill you - ignorance is bliss.

After all, isn't love blind?

This sure reads a lot into the story that I never saw any evidence for whatsoever.

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** NO SPOILERS **

Some of the things in your list, like #1, didn't happen in the movie and, all in all, I think you missed the most essential conflict.  None of these relate to the REAL theme which is -- The clash between those who are motivated by love and values (heroes Lucius and Ivy) versus those who are motivated by fear (everybody else).

My evidence for #1: Most of the village lads pulling sentry work (in the high-up guard post) were alternately curious and fearful [psychological conflict] of what lay beyond the village with some of them even pulling pranks (like when three boys once had one of them stand on a tree stump to taunt TWDSO) in this connection. Another instance is the time when TWDSO was on night patrol and Lucius was outside Ivy's house and she dared the circumstances, insisting on waiting for him to come in. He grabs her hand at the last minute and they both run into the house and into the underground trap-door with some of the other children. Shyamalan makes a big show, with rapturous music, of how terrified everyone is of TWDSO here. This conflict is political because the TWDSO were more like the Catholic Church than God, i.e., they were real.

Are you saying that these incidents did not take place?

All of these "conflicts" in the story involve a feeble-minded minor character who has no real choice. He only serves to set up situations in which the main characters have to make a choice.  By focusing on the minor character and his problems, you completely miss the real conflict.

This is precisely my point: why is such a feeble-minded character the fulcrum of action? Lucius wants to leave the village. Why? Ostensibly to get medicine for the feeble-minded character. Why isn't he able to go? Because the feeble-minded character stabs him. Why does Ivy go into the forest? Because the feeble-minded character has stabbed her Lucius. Aside of one naturally-occuring pit in the forest, what else stands in Ivy's way and threatens to kill her? This feeble-minded character.

So, with all this major, life-altering action by and for the feeble-minded character, how then can he be minor? And how, in the idyllic circumstances of the village did he figure out the nature of TWDSO and also know where to get the costume, to kill the village animals, etc?

A writer cannot insert such a glaring anomaly into a story and expect not to face the fire.

As Dr. Michael Hurd has pointed out, a person may have a mental illness but this does not make him incapable of choice. A mentally-ill person is not necessarily a psychopath. Adrian Brody's character made the choice to stab Lucius, and seeing that Ivy was in love with Lucius and not him, decided that no-one would have her, hence his decision to kill her.

Q.E.D.

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My evidence for #1:[ ... Events in the story ... ].  Shyamalan makes a big show, with rapturous music, of how terrified everyone is of [ ... something in the movie ... ].  This conflict is political because [ ... those things in the movie ... ]were more like the Catholic Church than God, i.e., they were real.

In fact, all you know at that point is that people seem to believe they are real, but whatever they are is still an unknown. As to your religious comparison, I find that quite a fantastic reach.

This is precisely my point: why is such a feeble-minded character the fulcrum of action?
He ISN'T. If a story concerns people heroically coping with a natural disaster, the disaster may precipitate the action, but the story is about the heroic people -- NOT the disaster.

So, with all this major, life-altering action by and for the feeble-minded character, how then can he be minor?

Because it is not about him. It is about the heroes (Lucius and Ivy), what they choose to do, and why they choose to do it. They both face fear and act for love.

And how, in the idyllic circumstances of the village did [ .. the feeble-minded character do something crucial to the plot ... ]

He saw someone else do it and imitated.

A writer cannot insert such a glaring anomaly into a story and expect not to face the fire.

There was no "glaring anomaly."

As Dr. Michael Hurd has pointed out, a person may have a mental illness but this does not make him incapable of choice.  A mentally-ill person is not necessarily a psychopath.
But he COULD be. Some people can be so retarded or brain-damaged that they cannot distinguish right from wrong.

[ ... The feeble-minded ... ] character made the choice to [ ... do something affecting the story ... ]

I don't think he was capable of knowing what he was doing. If someone like that character stood trial today, he'd get off on a classic McNaughten defense.

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I interpreted the movie as the elders attempt to abandon one malevolent universe (which they mistakenly interpreted as such) to replace it with a new one that is unmistakably malevolent.  I also agree with the flaws in the plot pointed out by mattbateman.

Even so, I still enjoyed the movie because of Lucius and Ivy's unwillingness to settle for pain suffering.  It caused me to make a vague connection with “Anthem” in light of their rebellion.

My wife was loaned this DVD by her co-worker and we saw it Saturday.

I too got the connection with Anthem, but only in the sense that here was a society that eschewed modern technology and considered certain words unspeakable. Lucius and Ivy did not seek to escape the village, which, if they had, would have made this more like Anthem.

As I approached the conclusion of this film, a quote from Pogo came to mind: "We have met the enemy, and it is us."

The story was clever in one sense, that it achieved horror and suspense without there being a single grizzly monster in the film. The monsters were in the minds of those living in the village.

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Shyamalan's movies often get a strong reaction: positive or negative. He is back in the news, with his latest movie "Lady in the Water".

I've never seen one and I'm wondering if I should move them to the top of my "BlockBuster Queue", just to see what everyone is talking about! Any Shyamalan fan here have a recommendation: which one should I see first to get him at his best?

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IIRC Shymalan directed:

The Sixth Sense (only one I've seen)

Signs

The Village

and Lady in the Water

Hmm . . . iMDb turned up:

Unbreakable (seen it)

Stuart Little (Seriously?! Anyway, I saw this one, too)

Wide Awake

Praying with Anger

I'd freely recommend The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable . . . well, and Stuart Little but I don't think that's going to be indicative of his other work.

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The Sixth Sense was an awesome movie, and Signs was... not a huge waste of time. I haven't seen his others. If you value the opinion of critics, find what the Tomatometer turns up at rottentomatoes.com.

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I second Jennifer's suggestion to see The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, in that order. IMO, Signs was pretty good and The Village was just okay. The general trend I see is that each successive movie is not quite as good as the last after Unbreakable. My assessment is that he is depending too much on his style and the stories are becoming less interesting and/or less original. Once you are on to his "schtick", the style becomes less interesting and (for me) more tedious.

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I hated the Village. I chose not to see Lady in the Water, because I usually agree with Roger Ebert's reviews, and he said it sucked.

I enjoyed Unbreakable...also has some very good Objectivist themes. The Sixth Sense and Signs both rank among my favorite movies, but I'm a little surprised that the Objectivists on this board like them. Signs is fatalistic and strongly suggests divine intervention in anything good or bad that happens to us. The Sixth Sense is also somewhat fatalistic and has a pretty depressing ending. However, both are great movies, and I can overlook any bad themes that they may have.

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I enjoyed Unbreakable...also has some very good Objectivist themes.

Huh?

I liked Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense because they were good movies, not for any other reason. Both portrayed fairly ordinary people discovering, recognizing, and rising to the challenge of extraordinary situations. Both appeal to my sense of the fantastic, not to mention to my sensibility that it is not any superhuman capabilities that make you more able to deal with life; it is your power of choice, a power inherent in any human being.

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