Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

"Mixophobia" and the Gated Community as "Home Sweet Home" in M. Night Shyamalan's the Village

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

"Mixophobia" and the Gated Community as "Home Sweet Home" in M. Night Shyamalan's the Village

Article excerpt

there is a growing literature on the changing perceptions of home on account of the social impact of technology and its growing accessibility. David Morley's Home Territories expands the notion of home in the global era by examining the impact of communication technologies on the networks that delineate home and the reach of global media inside home spaces. Other aspects considered in this area of research include the less time-consuming and increasingly ubiquitous presence of transit and mobility, as well as the related political aspects of migration that have also significantly changed the scope and variety of understandings of home. Agnes Heller proposes the metaphor of being "geographically promiscuous" (1) or monogamous to home in her discussion of jet-setters and their frequent travels, whereas Elizabeth B. Silva explores the less obvious ways in which technology transforms familial and local relations through new linkages. Silva suggests that "the home is seen as being constructed out of movement, communication and social relations or, more generally, it is made out of practices that always stretch beyond the boundaries of the home as location" (32). Also focusing on movement, Sara Ahmed more broadly challenges "the assumption that migration is necessarily a movement away from home" (16, original emphasis), and Margaret Morse concludes that home often becomes a "composite of shifting locations" (69). Nonetheless, conventional expectations around the singular and static nature of home- a space that can be easily located and ought to remain unchanging over the course of one's life-can overshadow the changes that scholars such as Morley and Silva incisively describe. This pattern of reverting to stagnant conceptions of home is precisely what writer and director M. Night Shyamalan depicts in his 2004 film The Village.

The film opens with a shot of the backs of several heads covered in plain hats, an angle that positions the viewer as a member of this crowd, looking on and presumably sharing the grief of the man shown kneeling by a small coffin. The gathering is the funeral of young Daniel Nicholson, whose tombstone bears the date 1897. The funeral continues with an outdoor meal during which the leader of the community, Edward Walker, stands while making a somber speech before finally asking, "Did we make the right decision to settle here?" As the camera pans out from the pained face of the bereaved father, the father squeezes Edward's hand to show support despite the recent tragedy. I argue that Edward's ultimately rhetorical question remains particularly vital throughout the film as various characters wrestle with their village's restricted location and the compounded effects of such rigorous isolation. Edward concludes his speech with the affirmation "We are grateful for the time we have been given," and not long after he sits back down, howling sounds serve as a reminder of the danger that looms just beyond the village border. Yet the grand revelation of the film is not that the howling creatures in the nearby woods are a farce invented by the village elders to keep everyone else inside but that on the outside, past the forest and a large perimeter wall, it is more than a century later. The Covington Woods community is actually situated in the Walker Wildlife Preserve, a sprawling property "protected" from the twenty-first century and financed by the Walker estate.

Shyamalan's largely underrated film is a thought-provoking work that mixes, on one hand, the imagery of settlement and the presumed courage of starting anew with, on the other hand, the realities of claiming land for exclusive use and recycling narratives of old beginnings. In his complex analysis of the American "origin story" and pioneer mythology, Shyamalan illustrates an important and increasingly global tension between the idea of home as a quaint, stable, safe haven in unstable times. Zygmunt Bauman calls this era (beginning in the late twentieth century) "liquid" modernity and frames it in relation to solid modernity, a previous era that aligns with the mise-en-scene of the villagers' own late nineteenth century. …

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