BY CHRIS LEE
I recently re-watched M. Night Shyamalan’s 2004 film The Village. Though arguably one of his lesser works, I found myself unexpectedly weeping during the denouement [spoilers for the film’s ending follow].
The film introduces us to the residents of a small Pennsylvania village. Though not stated, the village’s protective log wall, the simple structures, and the residents’ manner of dress and speaking suggest a Puritan settlement in the 17th or 18th century. It is an isolated, insular, tight knit community.
There are a lot of rules—mostly meant to protect the residents from what is outside the defensive wall patrolled by watchmen. Villagers live in fear of the creatures beyond the wall that might attack at any time but which apparently live in uneasy truce with the villagers. The villagers must never go in the woods just beyond the wall of the compound and must avoid the color red which attracts the creatures. The elders strictly enforce the rules. For the most part, the elders are kindly enough, but they are unyielding as they must protect the people in their charge from what is outside their doors.
Few question the rules. There are enough brief sightings of the creatures or signs of their recent presence that few question the wisdom of the elders. However, after the death of a child for want of medicine followed by a potentially fatal stabbing of her love interest, Ivy, the blind daughter of the head elder, decides to leave the village to seek medicine for her people and for her dying love.
Out of compassion, Ivy’s father secretly allows her to go and shares a closely held secret. There is much to fear beyond the walls and the elders have been trying to protect the villagers and provide them with a better life. However, sightings of creatures in the woods are a hoax. The elders have perpetuated this lie and put many rules in place, nobly intending to keep their people sheltered from what is without.
Armed with this knowledge, Ivy blindly enters the woods, bravely faces opposition from those who would stop her, and perilously makes it to the other side, finally encountering a stone wall. Ivy scales the stone wall, goes over, and drops to the other side.
It is as this point that we see that all of the indoctrination, not just the creatures, has been a lie. Ivy stands at the edge of a modern roadway as a park ranger pulls up in his cruiser and radios headquarters, reporting the strange blind woman standing at the edge of the road in anachronistic garb.
The elders, however well intentioned, perpetuated lies, year after year, in order to protect people from the truth of life outside their sheltered community. The villagers lived in fear and sacrifice, loaded down by legalism. It took a good deal of courage to stumble out through the woods and climb the wall of stone.
I wept. How could I not? I need not pedantically enumerate the parallels with life in Adventism. They are all too obvious to anyone reading this. But here’s a thought that has stuck with me since this viewing: what did Ivy do after finding herself in reality and knowing the truth? Did she gather a few paltry bottles of meds and then go back to her life in the village hoping to “make things better from within”? Did she simply stand on the road, overwhelmed, turning back and forth between the stone wall and the roadway, tossed about by indecision and refusing the help of the park ranger? Or, did she accept the help offered and continue in courage, embracing the truth she had discovered, and forging a life based on the reality of that truth?
I hope Ivy started living the life after. I hope you do, too. †
Chris Lee lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife, Carmen, and daughters, Ashlyn and Alyssa. They attend the Lincoln Berean Church. Chris is a self-described “theology junkie” whose mission is to proclaim the unfathomable grace of Christ in a clear, understandable, and Biblical way. You may contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.