The Village is a 2004 American psychological thriller film, written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Brendan Gleeson. The film is about a village whose inhabitants live in fear of creatures inhabiting the woods beyond it referred to as "Those We Don't Speak Of." Like other films written and directed by Shyamalan from the same time period, The Village has a twist ending.
The film received mixed reviews, with critics especially divided about the plausibility and payoff of the ending. The film gave composer James Newton Howard his fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score.
Residents of the small, isolated Pennsylvania village of Covington, seemingly in the 18th or 19th century, live in fear of nameless creatures in the surrounding woods and have constructed a large barrier of oil lanterns and watch towers that are constantly manned to keep watch. After the funeral of a seven-year-old boy, Lucius Hunt asks the village elders for permission to pass through the woods to get medical supplies from neighbouring towns. However, his request is denied. Later, his mother Alice scolds him for wanting to visit the neighbouring towns which the villagers describe as wicked. The Elders also appear to have secrets of their own and keep physical mementos hidden in black boxes, the contents of which are reminders of the evil and tragedy they left behind when they left the towns. After Lucius makes a short venture into the woods, the creatures leave warnings in the form of splashes of red paint on all the villagers' doors.
Ivy Elizabeth Walker, the blind daughter of the chief Elder Edward Walker, informs Lucius that she has strong feelings for him and he returns her affections. They arrange to be married, but Noah Percy, a young man with an apparent developmental and learning disability, stabs Lucius with a knife, because he is in love with Ivy himself. Noah is locked in a room until a decision is made about his fate.
Edward goes against the wishes of the other Elders, agreeing to let Ivy pass through the forest and seek medicine for Lucius. Before she leaves, Edward explains that the creatures inhabiting the woods are actually members of their own community wearing costumes and have continued the legend of monsters in an effort to frighten and detract others from attempting to leave Covington. He also explains that the costumes are based upon tales of real creatures who once lived in the woods. Ivy and two young men (unaware of the Elders' farce) are sent into the forest, but both protectors abandon Ivy almost immediately, believing the creatures will kill them, but spare her out of pity. While traveling through the forest, one of the creatures suddenly attacks Ivy. She tricks it into falling into a deep hole to its death. However, the creature is actually Noah wearing one of the costumes found in the room where he had been locked away after stabbing Lucius.
Ivy eventually finds her way to the far edge of the woods, where she encounters a high, Ivy covered wall. After she climbs over the wall, a park ranger named Kevin spots Ivy and is shocked to hear that she has come out of the woods. The woods are actually the Walker Wildlife Preserve, named for Ivy's family, and it is actually the modern era instead of the 19th century as the villagers believe. Ivy asks for help and gives Kevin a list of medicines that she must acquire, also giving him a golden pocket watch as payment.
During this time, it is revealed that the village was actually founded in the late 1970s. Edward Walker, then a professor of American history at the University of Pennsylvania, approached other people he met at a grief counseling clinic following the murder of his father and asked them to join him in creating a place where they would sustain themselves and be protected from any aspect of the outside world. When they agreed, Covington was built in the middle of a wildlife preserve purchased with Edward's family fortune. The head park ranger Jay tells Kevin that the Walker Estate pays the government to keep the entire wildlife preserve beneath a no-fly zone and also funds the ranger corps who ensure no outside force disrupts the preserve. Kevin secretly retrieves medicine from his ranger station and Ivy returns to the village with the supplies, unaware of the truth of the situation.
During her absence, the Elders secretly open their black boxes, each containing mementos from their lives in the outside world, including items related to their past traumas. The Elders gather around Lucius's bed when one of the townsfolk informs them that Ivy has returned and that she killed one of the monsters. Edward points out to Noah's grieving mother that his death will allow them to continue deceiving the rest of the villagers that there are creatures in the woods, and all the Elders take a vote to continue living in the village. Ivy comes in and tells Lucius that she has returned.
- Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy Elizabeth Walker
- Joaquin Phoenix as Lucius Hunt
- Adrien Brody as Noah Percy
- William Hurt as Edward Walker
- Sigourney Weaver as Alice Hunt
- Brendan Gleeson as August Nicholson
- Cherry Jones as Mrs. Clack
- Celia Weston as Vivian Percy
- Frank Collison as Victor
- Jayne Atkinson as Tabitha Walker
- Judy Greer as Kitty Walker
- Fran Kranz as Christop Crane
- Liz Stauber as Beatrice
- Michael Pitt as Finton Coin
- Jesse Eisenberg as Jamison
- M. Night Shyamalan as Jay
- Charlie Hofheimer as Kevin Lupinski
Sentient Species Edit
The film was originally titled The Woods, but the name was changed because a film in production by director Lucky McKee, The Woods (2006), already had that title. Like other Shyamalan productions, this film had high levels of secrecy surrounding it, to protect the expected twist ending that was a known Shyamalan trademark. Despite that, the script was stolen over a year before the film was released, prompting many "pre-reviews" of the film on several Internet film sites and much fan speculation about plot details. The village seen in the film was built in its entirety in one field outside Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. An adjacent field contained an on-location temporary sound stage. Production on the film started in October 2003, with delays because some scenes needing fall foliage could not be shot because of a late fall season. Principal photography was wrapped up in mid-December of that year. In April and May 2004, several of the lead actors were called back to the set. Reports noted that this seemed to have something to do with a change to the film's ending, and, in fact, the film's final ending differs from the ending in a stolen version of the script that surfaced a year earlier; in the original version, the film ends after Ivy climbs over the wall and it is revealed to the audience that the film takes place in the present day