Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Brendan Gleeson, Sigourney Weaver, Jayne Atkinson, Cherry Jones, Judy Greer, Fran Kranz, Michael Pitt, Jesse Eisenberg…
Written and Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Released: July 30, 2004 (United States)
Overall score: 6/10
Brody performance: 6/10
It’s difficult to tell you much about The Village without spoilers, so I will be vague, and put most of my focus on Adrien’s performance.
The safest synopsis I can give you is: People in an isolated community live their lives according to specific rules handed down by the elders. However, younger residents seek to challenge said rules for the good of others.
There, I think that’s a general enough summary.
The marketing for The Village‘s initial release was misleading, which caused quite an uproar. The trailer, for instance, made it look like an entirely different type of film. The clips were edited in such a way to create a vastly different story. Audiences were angered by the deception, and didn’t give the movie a chance to prove itself worthy. It was therefore panned by critics and fans alike, and nearly derailed M. Night Shyamalan’s career.
Writer Dag Sødtholt created a wonderfully detailed, multi-part analysis of the film, in which he says the following about Brody’s work as Noah Percy.
At first glance, Adrien Brody‘s performance might seem like an exaggerated, rather inane idea of the random behaviour of a “madman” – or “village idiot”! – but further viewings will reveal that all his actions are fully explained…. In this light, Brody’s acting is quite brilliant, precise and engaging.
I had to chop up that quote in order to redact spoilers for those who haven’t seen The Village yet, but I’m so grateful that someone “got” Adrien’s performance as Noah Percy so fully. Sometimes I feel like the only one.
As Sødtholt said, upon first viewing, yes, Adrien seems over-the-top. In all honesty, I cringed when I first saw Brody as Noah (as the parent of a special needs child, I was especially critical). However, once you reach the end of the film — and sit there saying, “wait… what?,” as the credits roll — you will feel compelled to watch it again (if you’re anything like me).
When you re-watch knowing the story, you realize Noah knows what’s going on! Brody’s performance makes so much more sense the second time around. Noah reacts to things the way he does, because he is fully aware of truths the majority of those in his community are not. He is an insider, so-to-speak.
If you’re someone who is familiar with autism (such as myself), you’ll know taking things at face value is a common trait. I do not think Noah is autistic, but I think whatever conditions he has also carry that trait. There are a few things Noah takes very literally in this story. One such example is when he agrees to, “no hitting.” Perhaps that admonition should have been phrased in a more general way. I’m just saying.
Noah’s sense of right and wrong is skewed, either by his delays and childlike thought processes, or by mental illness that causes a detachment of sorts. Or, as is most likely, a combination of those things. Ivy serves as Noah’s moral guide and teacher, as well as his best friend. I think Shyamalan did this as a subtle nod to the concept of, “the blind leading the blind.” Ivy is physically blind, but Noah is metaphorically blind to the ways of the world. They assist each other in a very symbiotic way.
Most of the time.
Well, that is really about all I can tell you without giving away too much. So, I will leave you with two pieces of advice: 1. Give this film a shot without watching its trailer. Please. After you see it, watch the trailer… you’ll be amazed by how deceptive it is. 2. Watch the movie more than once.