The beating heart of M.Night Shyamalan most underrated masterpiece The Village (2004) is the love story between Ivy and Lucius – played by Bryce Dallas Howard and Joaquin Phoenix – who grew up together on the off-the-grind Pennsylvania village of Covington, created by the communes elders, which includes Ivy’s father Edward Walker (William Hurt). As young adults the elders look to Ivy and Lucius and their siblings and friends as the future of their isolated Utopian community. But to keep them in the dark about the real world (the ‘towns’ beyond the forest) and from ever entertaining the idea of leaving the village, they created hostile monsters in red cloaks to terrorize their own children as a way of maintaining order.
When Lucius grows weary and tired of the status quo he asks to leave the village to buy modern medicine from the towns beyond the forest. When the elders refuse his request he quietly acts out stepping fleetingly beyond the boundary between the village and the forest into the domain of the monsters. It is act of quiet defiance that the elders seemingly cannot let go unpunished. They react by unleashing a night time ‘attack’ from the monsters the villagers refer to as Those We Do Not Speak Of. It is here in arguably one of the best sequences of the film that Ivy comes to put her unreserved faith in Lucius. But in appreciating and understand the suspenseful scene that unfolds, we must first backtrack a little to discuss Ivy’s love for Lucius and Lucius quiet affection for her.
We first meet the young blind heroine of the film Ivy Walker when she is comforting her hysterical sister Kitty, after Lucius declines her very colourful marriage proposition. It is here and in the scenes that follow that our impression of Ivy as sweet and innocent but headstrong is also formed. Lucius on the other hand is quiet and reserved. He is someone who keeps his inner feelings to himself and goes about his duties diligently as a future leader of the community. Interestingly, while Lucius comes across as aloof, he cannot fool Ivy, who has suspected for years that he has strong feelings for her. “You used to hold my arm when I walked. Then suddenly, you stopped” Ivy says to Lucius in an early key scene. “One day, I even tripped in your presence and nearly fell. I was faking, of course, but still you did not hold me. Sometimes we don’t do things we want to do so that others won’t know we want to do them.”
It is clear here in this dialogue that Ivy knows Lucius stopped showing her affection because of his awkwardness. It is also clear in other conversations with Lucius (particular in the scene where Ivy reiterates that she is free to have suitors court her) that Ivy is the type of person who is never backwards in coming forward. It is definitely her strong suit that eventually makes Lucius question his affection for her. This is no more evident than in the climatic monster attack scene, which begins in earnest with the watchtower bells signalling that the village perimeter had been breached by the monsters.
With the villagers frantically running around closing windows and doors to their homes, it is the lonely figure of Lucius strutting around helping others that draws our attention. He is seemingly unafraid of the monsters, but also cautious not to incite their wrath. Meanwhile, on the other side of the village, Ivy stands on her porch hoping that Lucius will come to close her door. Interestingly, against the protests from her sister to close the door, Ivy refuses to do so, because she believes Lucius will saves her. It is therefore plain to see that it is her blind faith that keeps her on the porch, hoping against all odds that Lucius will grab her outstretched hand before the monsters do. And when he does, it’s arguably one of the sweetest gestures captured on film, as he romantically waltzes Ivy across the floor of her living room into the safe haven of the cellar. Importantly, Lucius even continues to hold Ivy’s hand in the dark beneath the floor boards, with all the steely determination of a protector. Even more so, he is letting Ivy know how important she really is to him.