“The Village” – a film recommendation
“The man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.” – Michel de Montaigne
Last night I viewed the 2004 film “The Village” (directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and starring, among others, Joaquin Phoenix, Sigourney Weaver, and William Hurt).
An interesting story, analogous to the constant state of fear the American people choose to live in, it illustrates well how fear itself can (in distorted “reasoning”) become the security blanket for a people. And it is most certainly a choice.
The “us” versus “them” mentality is prevalent in American culture, as is the need for an “enemy” to which the people look to government to protect and save them…never questioning that the government may have motive to keep its subjects in fear. To focus one’s or a community’s (or a nation’s) attention upon the evils lurking in the unknown, makes them blind to the real threats in their midst (themselves), as well as resulting in the giving up of happiness, fulfillment, and expansion beyond the mental barriers which keep one in their own self-imposed prison which effectively keeps life and its abundance of possibilities and adventures hidden.
Consider the government’s continual warnings bombarding the people suggesting that everyone be on the lookout for sinister potential terrorist activity. This is nothing new. The U.S. government has long engaged in using the powerful technique of fear to control the American people. Encouraging fear through all manner of disturbing scenarios has been used to justify the government then doing whatever it says is deemed necessary to protect the people – and that always involves the taking away of civil liberties at home, and military interventionism worldwide.
For example, the Cold War fear found children practicing hiding under desks and families digging bomb shelters; government operations weren’t questioned. With the Cold War gone, the “war on terror” has conveniently taken its place.
Always there must be an “enemy” and always the government steps in to say it will keep the people safe – just trust them. Be it local, state, or nationally, government always focuses on emphasizing threats (real or, as in what is often the case imaginary or over-emphasized), thereby preparing people to easily comply with whatever the government declares they must do to “protect” them from that which they claim would otherwise harm them…be it a substance, a virus, foreigners, etc.
In the case of the film, the fear of those “we do not speak of” certainly grips the community into submission to its boundaries, as well as forming a subservient attitude toward its protector’s, called the “elders” of the community. No one dare venture beyond the community borders, constant vigil is kept with a guard tower and light, and emergency procedures immediately enacted when the warning bell sounds. The danger is so instilled, that children die for lack of medicines, simply because the danger of venturing into the outside world is too great. “Sacrifice” for the community is esteemed.
But, as the film also demonstrates, the power of love is greater than fear. To choose love results in one’s actions becoming bold, strong and courageous. Fear no longer dominates; all things become possible. In this case, the love for one’s beloved becomes the catalyst for great courage. Hope lies not in remaining in a safe and secure confine, but in defying the rules and regulations by venturing into the unknown.
Be it on the personal individual level, or a nation, life is not to be escaped from, but experienced. To experience is to embrace all which life consist of for you – never trying to hide from or block out that which is unpleasant or unsettling, and never trying to so desperately avoid danger that one gives up liberty. Looking back, as if life in the past was any less stressful or dangerous, is illusory. Life, fully lived, is always fraught with risks, but it in this we learn and grow. A passionate zeal for life, adventure, and the joy of shared happiness is not gained through avoiding vulnerability. And true joyful living isn’t ever experienced in the grip of illusions and another’s control.
Hovering in fear, looking to those who say they know best how to protect you, ever worrying that some enemy will attack or take from you, is not living. And even if one so chooses to isolate themselves from the dangers of the world, one must never assume the prerogative to choose for others, including one’s children. To simply share with them your own experiences and advice should suffice, to go further in assuming you must “protect” them from what you wish to avoid is to make a grave mistake. Deceit and control of those one says they love, even if perceived as for their own protection, is never justified. But such fear is often the basis (even with good intentions) for the rationalization of control in personal relationships and in the collective over a society. But as the popular phrase correctly indicates, good intentions can still lead to hell.
Hurting souls can easily succumb to the idea of protecting oneself from further pain at all costs.But to ever suppose fear has any rational logic on which to base any decision is to choose misery over joy, death over life. (And more than not, when in regard to the collective, there aren’t even “good intentions” by those with power, but simply exploitation of a weak and fearful people for their own agenda. When a people end their questioning, real misery begins.)
The film, fantastical and imaginative in nature, shares truths our society has, for the most part, forgotten. The willful sacrifice of freedom for security grips this nation, and its disastrous effects will be suffered by its children and theirs. Likewise, on the individual level, many people simply choose to exist, seeking security above fulfillment, taking the easy route of conformity and doing what society expects of them rather than what would personally fulfill them.
But there is still time to choose again, to choose freedom, to bravely choose life.
The values and character traits of courage, faith, hope, compassion, and empathy are never served by any form of fear.
I liked watching “The Village,” as I enjoy films which, in imaginative fiction, demonstrate truths applicable to us. If you’re someone who can suspend belief, enjoys a suspenseful yarn, and appreciates films with a gently interwoven message, then simply sit back and watch free from any preconceptions, and I think you may enjoy it as I did.