Film vs. Book: M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” & M. Peterson Haddix’s “Running Out of Time”

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 The Village is a 2004 film directed by M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense” (1999)), and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt and Bryce Dallas Howard. The film tells a tale of a 19th century village whose inhabitants live in constant fear of some creatures that start to terrorise the village population. One of the protagonists of the movie is a blind girl named Ivy. Although the movie is not as bad as critics claim and its soundtrack is absolutely beautiful, it has a needless array of well known star-actors involved, which is distracting. Running Out of Time is a hugely popular 1996 book by Margaret Peterson Haddix for young adults about a young girl (Jessie) in a 19th century village who is send on the mission to town to look for medicine to cure a diphtheria epidemic in her village. 

Even though the plots of both “The Village” and “Running Out of Time” are different, there are considerable similarities between the two. The ways in which the book and the film are similar speak volumes when one considers the most important things of both: “Running Out of Time” book’s narrative and “The Village” film’s final plot twist.

**SPOILER ALERT**

Similarities:

People live in a make-believe 19th century rural village when outside it is in fact 20th century: In “The Village” and “Running Out of Time”, people initially agreed to a kind of a “social experiment” to live in the 19th century rural setting while outside of the village it is, in fact, 20th century. 

The peculiarities of the village:

  • Both villages in the book and in the film are constructed as “natural preserves” whereby its 19th century setting on the inside and the usual modern life going on on the outside.
  • Both villages have special rules/scare-tales forbidding the villagers from leaving the compounds. In the film, it is “those we do not speak of”, some monsters which could strike at random. In the book, it is the “haunted trees” scare to ward off children and not have them trespassing the boundaries. Neither of these things turn out to be true, as “haunted trees” in the book are just cameras/other modern equipment installed to spy on the village population, and the so-called “those we do not speak of” are just costumes some villagers wear to scary other population and not have them wandering off too far.
  • In both “Running Out of Time” and in “The Village“, the guards of the compounds are patrolling the perimeters of the boundaries constantly (e.g. making sure that the borders are secure), and there are cameras installed across the perimeter. The villagers also have “special (do-not-disturb) arrangementswith the outside world. 
  • In the book and in the film, the village people are presented as possessing little “modern” knowledge, they are backward-looking, religious people who have an aversion of a town. A town is seen in their eyes as where “wicked people” live.

A vulnerable girl is send out to seek vital medicine and bring it back home to cure her loved one(s) who became sick: Jessie in “Running Out of Time” and Ivy in “The Village” are send out by their mother/father outside the compounds of the village because people/person who is the dearest to a girl suffers badly and need(s) medical attention – some medicine which can be found only outside the boundaries of the village. In that vein, Jessie is send out to seek medical help to save her school friends from diphtheria, and Ivy makes her journey to find medicine to help her fiancee who is  badly injured due to a knife stabbing.

Interestingly here, in both the film and book, the name of the medicine needed is written on a piece of paper, and both Jessie and Ivy carry this note to show to people so they know what medicine is needed (Jessie is too young to understand/differentiate the medicine and Ivy is blind and incapable of doing so).

The peculiarities of the girl:

  • Both Ivy (“The Village”) and Jessie (“Running Out of Time”) are “vulnerable” and are initially afraid to venture outside their village boundaries. Jessie is vulnerable because she is still a child, being only 13, and is send out from her home all alone to a mysterious town for medical supplies. Ivy is vulnerable in that she is blind and may not find her way out/in or fall victim to some creature/monster.
  • Both Ivy and Jessie do not initially know that it is actually 20th century outside of their village compound and are shocked to discover the truth. Both girls are told of the “secret” and are send out on a mission by their closest relatives. It is Ivy’s father who finally reveals to Ivy what is going on beyond the village’s borders and gives his blessing for Ivy to go on a journey. Similarly, it is Jessie’s mother who equips Jessie for the dangerous journey ahead, and finally revels to her that, in fact, it is 20s century outside of their village.
  • Both Ivy and Jessie associate themselves with boys and their boyish behaviour. Ivy in “The Village” is surrounded by her two male friends, and is praised for running like a boy. Similarly, Jessie in “Running Out of Time” is described as a tomboy, and many girls her age really are.

The girl receives external help from an unknown male to fetch the medicine: in both, the book and the film, Ivy/Jessie receives help from a male stranger to bring the medicine home/cure their beloved. Ivy is believed by a lone ranger who patrols the borders of her compound, and Jessie is helped by a cameraman/journalist. Both presumably save people/person they love as a result.

In both the movie and book, there is actually a child death documented and one person volunteers to go outside of the village boundaries to fetch the necessary medicine unavailable in the village. In the beginning of “The Village”, there is a scene where the funeral of a young child is depicted, and there is actually a scene in the movie where the character of Joaquin Phoenix volunteers to go to town to fetch the necessary medicine for the community. In “Running Out of Time”, the sole purpose of Jessie’s journey to town was to find medicine to prevent the dying of children from the contagious disease.

There may not be many similarities, but because the similarities play such an important role both in the film and in the book, it is not their number, but their quality/substance which is important. On that basis, the claim of plagiarism becomes substantial. Even though the publishers of  “Running Out of Time” considered pursuing a plagiarism action in court against M. Night Shyamalan, as far as I know, no such action has yet materialised.

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5 Responses to Film vs. Book: M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” & M. Peterson Haddix’s “Running Out of Time”

  1. Never heard of the book, but I was one of the rare ones who enjoyed the film. Interesting post, DB.

  2. Fascinating post and Shyamalan must have been influenced by the book in some way because the similarities are very clear.

    Having said that I think the film is actually very well done with a fine cast, great cinematography and colour design. There are also some genuine scares and suspense in there too so the director deserves credit for that.

    The end “twist” asks for a huge suspension of disbelief that the area would be a ‘no plane’ zone and also the park staff would be SO helpful. The rapid delivery of exposition kind of explained it but it wasn’t convincing. But that wasn’t the point I guess because it was about people desiring to escape the modern world due to the violence and horror they had suffered. Ironically, they then used fear themselves to “trap” the young villagers through folk stories and threat of monsters.

    Great article. Great film. And it sounds like and excellent book too.

    • dbmoviesblog says:

      Thank you very much. Prior to watching the film I read so many reviews saying how this movie is so bad and disappointing especially regarding the twist ending, but because I already knew the twist ending before watching the film, I really liked the film. I think that’s the trick. I prepared myself for something much much worse. You are right, the twist ending asks a lot from the audience, but at least no one can say they were expecting it. Btw, I recommend reading the book. It is designed for a young reader, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

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