cinema Essay Essential viewing Tableaux

Tableaux: The Village (2004)

Dir: M Night Shyamalan


The Village.mp4_000236069Imagine if you are suddenly dropped from above into the paintings gallery of a museum, of course you do not have the time to self-learn on what paintings are going to be there; naturally you are going to be worried. But be prepared to be startled even, because in Night Shyamalan’s Village the paintings themselves are not stationary and no amount of art reading is going to prepare you for it.

This is definitely not about how beautifully God of Light’s favourite son Deakins (which undoubtedly he does) captures the entirety of The Village, but come to think of it, paintings are a momentary thing, one second of a tale, not its entirety. That in a sense a limitation of the medium when it comes to telling a story, we can only view it in a way the artist wants us to and not all of us gifted with imagination.

But don’t we watch a movie (in this case, the village) the same as we see a painting?

A movie screen/theatre is in a sense a moving image museum; but then we can see a lot more, the reaction to action is immediate. Most of the times we provide the reaction, the time which is spent in understanding what is happening on screen is so fractional, that one moment we believe we are inside the movie. This I do not know if a painting can offer, at best it offers an artist’s account of what happened at one moment.

The Village is one such moving gallery, but it as much (or more so) about the people in these paintings than the landscape.

The Village.mp4_000138013Death is a good place to start, and on the coffin of a dead boy a father weeps, while his village watches this poignant moment (along with them us), the commune that restricts itself to the edge of a forest.

Paintings often to speak to us in light and shadows, and the Covington Woods are the shadows to the light of their lives, unspeakable things exist in the woods; but for years there has been a truce, until now. That’s where Shyamalan drops us, and it is a brilliant place to be.

The Village.mp4_002728896To be surrounded by joyous people who speak lines such as “Whose breath shall I listen to…so that I may sleep?” It is not only the rural setting that is poetic, it is the folk as well, a tribe that has lost sense of time but has retained in them a child-like quality, to play with trees and run through meadows proclaiming the different types of love and for whom the holding of hands conveys so much.

People without malice.

The Village.mp4_000562437But the setting also betrays a sense of utopia, an unachievable society built not on trust but on fear and with no inclusiveness or future. In fact the movie’s biggest question lies in whether such a commune can continue.

Fear invites mystery, so it is understandable for the village folk to view Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) with discomfort for he knows no fear of the creatures, but it is a strain of genius to have a blind protagonist in a film that has so much to see (Bryce Dallas Howard).

The Village.mp4_003961503A twist ending is an indication that the expected reaction is of shock and awe, but I do not recall any twist that blended so well with the theme of the film, in creating such a climax Night Shyamalan has in fact bettered his inspiration: Agatha Christie.

The Village transcends the normal whodunit, because most of the questions pop up after the final reveal. The Village also transcends its constituent paintings because its artist is not consumed by the beauty.

But I can be.


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