WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE M. NIGHT SHYMALAN FILM THE VILLAGE....STOP READING THIS NODE ***NOW***
After I saw M. Night Shyamalan's latest effort, The Village, I was discussing it with my friend, when he brought up a book I had never heard of before. A book he had read in middle school called Running out Of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix. He thought The Village and Running out Of Time were so familiar, he wondered if M. Night had possibly read the book for inspiration.
And from what I've gathered about the book, my friend might have had a point.
Running Out Of Time is about a thirteen year old girl named Jessie Keyser who lives in a village in a time that she thinks is 1840. When diptheria breaks out in the village she calls home, she is sent by her mother to go seek the epidemic to stop the outbreak. Yet, before she leaves, her mother tells her the dark secret of the village she lives in. Her home is nothing but a community fabricated for the enjoyment of tourists and for unethical scientific practices and the year is not 1840 but what the reader would consider the present day. The rest of the novel is Jessie in the outside, modern world, seeking the epidemic.
In M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, a blind girl named Ivy Walker (the incredible Bryce Dallas Howard) who is in her late teens to early 20s lives in a village and believes it is the 1890s (no date given, that's the one most attributed though). When her fiancé Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) is stabbed by the mentally disabled Noah Percy (Adrien Brody) she must leave the village to seek medicine to revive him. Yet not before her father tells her the secret of the village she lives in. People had never left the village fearing being attacked by creatures that lived beyond the borders of their towns (known as Those We Don't Speak Of in the film). Yet her father Edward Walker (William Hurt) tells her that they are factual and she leaves to seek medical help for Lucius. Along the way, the viewer discovers that the film is not set in the 1890s but what can be considered the present day.
The two similar works have glaring differences though. The reason for isolation in Running Out of Time is for the gain of tourism and science while the reason in The Village was for those who had suffered through the murder of a loved one to try to prevent senseless violence through isolation from contemporary American culture. The lead character in Running Out of Time realizes the true nature of her false village and the actualization of the actual time in which she lives. Yet in The Village the lead character does not due to her blindness and an encounter with what she thinks is a monster in the woods.
Nobody in the media has brought this fact to light though, so it's not known if M. Night Shyamalan himself has ever read Running out Of Time. It can be noted that Shyamalan has cited the Emily Bronte novel Wuthering Heights and the monster film classic King Kong as his inspirations for the film. Wuthering Heights inspiring the idea of a period drama and "King Kong" inspiring the community living in fear of monsters.
On a personal note, I love M. Night Shyamalan and I personally considered The Village to be yet another gem from him. It's a comfort to know that I can walk into M. Night's films and be guaranteed to have emotions evoked that very few other modern filmmakers can evoke. I, like many people, was disappointed when it was revealed in the film that the film you were watching was not a creature feature anymore. I felt little reason to keep watching. Yet the final ten minutes of the film and the 180 degree-like ending that M. Night always packs in his films made up for the initial disappointment and completed what I thought had been a fantastic package of a film until it the secret of the creatures was revealed.
Word of mouth has been horrible for The Village though, and even Disney stockholders (the film was distributed by Buena Vista, a Disney branch) have estimated the film not achieving blockbuster status at the box office despite it's large opening weekend. Yet I have great faith in M. Night. M. Night is a rare director who can take his time crafting a scene and not have to throw in a bunch of exploding cars and an endless supply of bad dick jokes.
For that reason alone, I can't wait to see his adaptation of Yann Martel's magnificent novel Life Of Pi.
Two weeks after writing this, every major media source in the nation picked up on this. As M. Night is now being sued by Margaret Peterson Haddix for plagiarism. Buena Vista has denied it, but Ms. Haddix was quoted as saying "It's certainly an interesting situation. I'm just examining what my options are."