A lot of people seem to look down on The Village (2004). They laugh at the twist, the strange and manipulative plot, and chalk it up to just another weird film in the M. Night Shyamalan filmography. But, for me, The Village is one of my favorite films of his. I fell in love with its violin-dominated soundtrack, its chillingly stark cinematography, the prospect of a horrifying monster, and its characters.
I’ll admit I didn’t totally understand the twist when I was a kid, but upon rewatches throughout the years, I found it to be a profound—and I will admit deeply strange—look at the effects of grief and trauma. But what I loved the most about the film was its female protagonist, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard, Jurassic World).
Ivy Elizabeth Walker is the daughter of one of the village elders, Edward (William Hurt, Altered States). They live in a small colonial village surrounded by woods that are supposedly full of creatures simply called Those We Do Not Speak Of that keep them from leaving their peaceful clearing. They wear bright red cloaks, have huge claws, and feast on meat offerings. At first, Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Lucius, seems to be the fearless protagonist who wishes to wander past these borders to explore the world. But, at least for me, Ivy is the film’s true hero. Through a disturbing act of violence, Ivy learns that these monsters were constructed by the village leaders to keep their people from leaving. This is not the 1800s; this is the present day. The leaders met through a trauma group and decided to create this utopia to avoid grief and despair. But now Ivy must leave the village to get important medical supplies and experience the real world for herself.
I wanted to be Ivy Elizabeth Walker. She was strong, independent, outspoken, and kind. I would tell people in online chatrooms and on Neopets message boards that my name was Ivy. I told people I had red hair. It was a way for me to imagine new possibilities for myself. It was a means for me to channel the strength I saw in this character. Yes, she was blind, but that never kept her from achieving what she wanted.
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In honor of the 15th anniversary of the release of The Village, I wanted to highlight some Ivy’s best moments and qualities that make her an empowering female character and worth more love today.
She is Unabashedly Herself
Ivy is often mentioning how she is a tomboy and how much she wishes she could play with the other boys in the village. At one point Lucius tells her, “You run like a boy,” to which she responds, “thank you.” She loves to run, she loves to play games, but mostly she loves to speak her mind. She is never afraid to tell others how she feels and is also never afraid to help others. What I love most about Ivy is that when she speaks her mind, she is not punished or chastised. This is a film that lets its female character claim her agency without needing to be constantly told she is too much or too loud. She is given the space to be herself.
She Isn’t Afraid to Talk About Her Feelings With Lucius.
Ivy’s outspoken nature shines through most in her interactions with Lucius. She isn’t afraid to confront him about his feelings for her, she isn’t afraid to question his actions, and she isn’t afraid to propose to him. She teases him for no longer taking her hand to guide her, like he did when they were kids. She directly confronts him about his feelings for her, which is met with hesitation but not anger. She is true to her feelings and her love, and again this is rewarded. She isn’t punished or yelled at for pursuing Lucius, but rather it blossoms into romance. In all honesty, this inspired me to be more honest with my feelings for boys, though unfortunately, it didn’t always end up so well. Regardless, she again claims her agency in this relationship and shows that you don’t always need a man to lead you.
She Is The One Able To Go To The Towns Alone.
When Ivy is told she can journey out of the village’s borders, she is given two male escorts to ensure her protection and help guide her. However, one of the escorts loses his nerve immediately after crossing into the woods, and the other escort soon follows suit. Ivy, with all of her bravery, is left to complete the journey on her own. While she has been told that Those They Do Not Speak Of are not real, there is still the fear that they could exist. She exudes bravery and strength as she goes forth alone to save Lucius and get life-saving medication from the outside world. She continues to show her bravery as she fights one of the ‘forest-dwelling creatures’. Despite the initial wave of fear, she uses her ingenuity and strength to outwit the creature. Nothing will stop her from making her way to the towns, not even a pig-faced creature with massive claws.
The Village is a profoundly melancholy film that I believe deserves more credit for its beauty. It gave me a role model, after all. Plus, it boasts an absolutely stacked cast, with actors such as Sigourney Weaver (Alien), Brendan Gleeson (28 Days Later), Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland), Michael Pitt (Funny Games), Cherry Jones (Signs), and Fran Kranz (The Cabin in the Woods).
The Village is streaming now on Netflix, so you don’t have a reason to avoid it! What do you think The Village? Do you think it deserves more love? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!