If I had to define the word tedious with a movie, it might be Netflix’s Japanese-language film The Village, also known simply as “Village.” What looks like a mystery tinted with Japanese art and a deep message of “be kind to everything around you” turns out to be more tiring than inspiring. It’s quite disheartening because this movie could’ve turned out brutal and emotional if it weren’t so sporadically paced. The two hours have definitely been underutilized, and the details that have been paid attention to are redundant. A lot of the film is dark, and if you’re watching it in the daytime, it might be a little difficult to understand what exactly is happening. The plot attempts to cover the dark and difficult subjects of bullying, the idea of evil being hereditary, climate change, depopulation, and the abandonment of tradition for contemporary culture. While all of that sounds extremely fascinating, for the first 50 minutes of the movie, you really can’t tell what’s happening at all.
I went into The Village with no prior knowledge of what the film was about or even having seen a poster. After seeing the title on Netflix, it looked like something that could be perceived as similar to the Indian Kannada language film Kantara because of the similarities in themes. But the thrill of it all dies down after the first 15 minutes of the movie, which are visually strong and audibly eerie. The atmosphere created during the presentation of Noh, a traditional dance-drama-like performance where the performer wears a mask at the beginning of the film, is a highlight, and because it’s so high up, it falls from grace very quickly.
The Village follows a young man named Yu Katayama who lives in the gorgeous village of Kamonmura, a rural area in Japan. He can’t leave the place because of a haunting past and a mother in debt. Yu works in a garbage disposal facility, something that the villagers weren’t very happy to have in their vicinity when it came about, but now there are plans for expansion for it. Yu gets bullied terribly by his fellow workers and manager, but he endures it because of the incident in the past. His life takes a turn for the better when his childhood sweetheart returns to the village from the great city of Tokyo, essentially becoming his salvation. While I’m writing this explanation, I keep going back to the film and appreciating some parts of it a little better, but I can’t go as far as to say it’s good, just that it’s tolerable. There’s something very dissatisfying about this statement because of how profound the idea of it all is.
Director Michihito Fujii is well-established, and as someone who hasn’t seen any of his filmography, I can’t comment on any of his other works, but I just hope they’re not like this one. I completely understand the sentiment of the movie, but its portrayal is so hollow that I found myself getting distracted every five minutes. If I’m being completely honest, it took me about 4 hours to get through The Village, and that was only because I had to write this review. It looks like sticking to traditions and avoiding technological advancements is a running theme that is a new obsession in the Japanese entertainment industry currently. It’s almost like a weird return to the technophobia era of the early 2000s, except this time it’s a more real-life horror than the kind we’ve so enjoyed over the years. The last time I saw Ryusei Yokohama was in the film Your Eyes Tell, and he was fantastic in it. The film relies heavily on Ryusei’s ability to keep the audience hooked, but even he can’t seem to do it. Misaki and Yu’s chemistry is decent, and for a good amount of time, I thought it was a romance movie where the chosen one has an awakening because he finds the love of his life, but I was so wrong.
I can understand that The Village plays on a lot of the real fears of people currently living in small villages like Kamonmura, but the film tries to do so much at once that it does nothing at all. The cinematography and background score are great, as expected. Additionally, the film begins in a great direction, as I mentioned earlier, but then fizzles out into something else by the end, making it even worse. You want to know the truth about Yu’s past, but you don’t have the energy to sit through the whole 2 hours. The Village challenges the polarity of good vs. evil, which is a great line of thought that dwindles into a regular hero-and-villain situation by the end.
The overarching theme of dreams, which could be considered the line that connects this entire film, is forgotten by the end of it, so I’d recommend remembering the words that appear on the screen before the movie begins to make some more sense of it all. If only The Village had been cleaned up a bit and edited in a more comprehensive manner, I would’ve truly enjoyed it. There’s bloodshed, bullying, and violence in the film for younger viewers. I really appreciated the art of “Noh” and am excited to look into it further after watching this film, so that is something I’m grateful about. If you’re willing to slog through the film to come to a moderately satisfying ending, then you could give The Village a go.
I would not recommend The Village, especially if you’re someone who can’t watch a slow burn, because this one doesn’t burn, it smolders (with all the fires in the film). If you do choose to watch it, it could be a forgotten piece of art. There’s something sad about Yu’s arc through the film, which is like a graph that takes off and then comes crashing back down. It’s especially disheartening after seeing everything he goes through in the 2-hour runtime. I really hope a tidier version or a couple of this kind of story come about soon enough, because I’m sure I’d be interested in seeing them. For The Village, though, I would give it about 2 to 2 and a half stars out of five, depending on my mood. Maybe a second watch might make it better, but I don’t think I’m capable of sitting through it again.