Monday, June 06, 2005

Not Hebrews Today

"They are driven by love. ... The world stands in awe of it. The world bows down before it." Ed Walker, The Village. I have a deep appreciation for the cinemagraphic work of M. Night Shyamalan. His movies are different. They combine suspense with the deep questions and issues of life. This is especially true of Signs and The Village, on which I plan to write today. I have been wanting to write on this for some time, but I consider t the hight of impropriety to spoil the twists and turns of this tale. It's been close to a year, you have had your chance. I will write on, but I will only spoil one of the twists. The Village is first of all a love story. Although romance is there, the power of this love story is about faith and cost.
  • Faith: Ivy, a blind girl, is so confident of Lucias' love and concern for her and her family that she stands alone on a porch with her out-streched hand and waits for either Lucias' protecting hand or a grim creature's blow.
  • Cost: Ivy travels through a wood blind and alone to get the medicine that Lucias needs to survive an infection. Upon coming to an ivy covered fence, ivy climbs the ivy to get to the other side. It is clear that she will save this man she loves or she will die trying. Shayamalan is too careful a craftsman for the visual pun "Ivy climbing ivy" to be accidental. She is exceeding herself and going beyond herself.

The grim creature whose blow Ivy hopes to avoid by Lucias' rescuing hand turns out to be a sham. The elders of the village have all seen death and crime in "the towns" and have sought an isolated utopia. The creatures, "those we do not speak of," are a contrivance of the elders to keep their young ones afraid of venturing into the woods. The village community is based on a lie, which has the curious property of raising young people of character whose strength comes over coming their fear of something that does not exist. This dichotomy of elders who put forward and maintain the farce and the unkowing community of those who react as if it were real creates some subtle contrasts.

Here is my favorite of these contrasts. Ivy--and by now you should see that she is the principle character--knows of Lucias' undeclared love for her. She informs him that she knows, "You used to touch me and then you stopped. Sometimes we do not do the things we want to do so that the other person does not know we want to do them." The truth of her assertion comes later when Lucias tells his mom, "Ed Walker likes you, because he never touches you." The truth of Lucias' assertion then comes later when his mom notes that Ed Walker will not move to shake her hand, while shaking the hand of all other women in a receiving line.

Whereas, Lucias and Ivy push through this shy reticence. Ed Walker and Lucias' mom never do. There is a seen where Ed steps closer and closer, and you expect, you really expect, the walls to come down. Instead he drops his head, steps away, and leaves the house. The movie never explains the dynamics, but leaves it a mystery to be solved by the viewer. The solution is simply this. Lucias and Ivy are honest people and know themselves to be honest. Each of the elders bears the burden of a lie and this will, of necessity, keep them on their side of their walls (remember Ivy climbing over ivy). "If I can lie with you, I can lie to you." Intimacy is based on trust.

For those of us who seek to raise a convincing voice to a secular world, the works of M. Night Shyamalan are a gift. We can use the situations and dialogs in his movies to comfortably raise questions to others and enjoin discussion.