The Village

The Village (2004)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix, Sigourney Weaver
Extras: Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Bryce’s Diary, Home Movie, Photo Gallery

With only a handful of films to his credit, M. Night Shyamalan has already reached a notoriety among movie fans like few directors and writers do. With his latest film "The Village" he once again proves that he has more in common with directors like Alfred Hitchcock than the MTV generation of filmmakers with their flashy style. Unfortunately the film was marketed as a horror film, which it is not, and as a result critics and theatergoers alike were frequently disappointed. Undeservedly so, I must say, because "The Village" is a wonderfully crafted, multi-layered movie with plenty of suspense and a great social commentary. Buena Vista Home Entertainment is now releasing "The Village" on DVD and I was eager to take a closer look.

The inhabitants of a small village in the woods are completely isolated from the outside world. They are surrounded by a haunted forest that is infested by an unspeakable evil. It was only after a truce with Those-they-do-not-speak-of that they managed to lead safe lives within their community and as such become completely self-sufficient. No one is allowed to leave the perimeter of the village and as a result none of the evils will enter in return. But suddenly things are changing. Something seems to be stirring up the creatures from the forest. First there are signs in the form of skinned animals, then painted warning signs on front doors, and ultimately the creatures themselves appear in the village in the dead of night. Then, one of the townspeople is critically wounded, and one of them decides to venture through the woods to the towns beyond to fetch some medicines.

If this sounds all a bit obscure, be assured it is on purpose. Because "The Village" is a film you want to explore for yourself and it is hard to talk about it without giving away too much of the story. Suffice it to say that like Hitchcock always did, Shyamalan is taking the viewer on a journey in which nothing is what it may seem, in which nothing is predictable and in which the camera serves as a tool to completely pull the viewer into the world we are watching. Somber and solemn is the atmosphere, hushed up and foreboding at all times building an atmosphere of menace that is never really seen.

A great cast drives the film, with William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson and Adrien Brody providing good supporting characters, while Joaquin Phoenix and Bryce Dallas Howard lead the cast.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment is presenting "The Village" in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer on this DVD in a presentation that is free of defects or grain. The movie’s color’s palette is muted by design and the DVD reproduces this palette very well. Black levels are solid, rendering deep shadows that never lose detail and firmly root the image visually. No edge-enhancement or compression artifacts mar the experience.

The audio of the movie has been carefully designed, making exceedingly good use of the surround channels to create an eerie atmosphere of suspense. It is never overtly going for surround effects, but uses the directional channels to create an ambiance that is lively and active with subtle elements. Dialogues are nicely integrated and are never drowned out by the music or sound effects. With the wide frequency response and good dynamic range of the track the movie always has a very natural aural quality.

As supplements the DVD contains a 25-minute behind the scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews as well as footage from the set of the movie. It is interesting, though of somewhat limited informative value. A series of deleted scenes is also included, as well as a photo gallery and a 5-minute segment called "Bryce’s Diary" in which Bryce Dallas Howard shared her experiences of working on the film during the production.

A small little gem is a 4-minute home movie from Shyamalan’s private archive as he gives us his pre-career take on a certain whip-slinging adventurer.
Despite all the harsh criticism I had heard about the film, I enjoyed "The Village" very much and I do believe you just have to see this film with certain mindset in order to appreciate it.