Story: Yu Katayama (Ryusei Yokohama) lives in the secluded village of Kamonmura, which is known for its ancient Noh tradition and a gigantic garbage disposal facility. Because of something his father did ten years ago, Yu is still excluded by the villagers, and the young man is also repeatedly subjected to bullying at work. Since his mother is addicted to gambling, Yu not only works at the garbage disposal facility and sorts out the recyclables there, but he and some others also earn some extra money at night burying toxic waste in the dumpsite's yard for some gangsters. Even the mayor (Arata Furuta) is involved in this and so there is hardly any chance that their actions will come to light. However, Misaki (Haru Kuroki) suddenly turns up in the village. She and Yu used to be very close. Now she works for the PR department of the garbage disposal facility. Not only does she get a little closer to Yu again, but she also wants to give him a better chance at work. Yu, who has long believed that he will never be able to change anything in his life, could finally get the chance to turn over a new leaf. Even his old friend Kokichi (Shido Nakamura) pays him a visit and together with him and Misaki the trio remembers the carefree days when they used to play Noh theater as children. Yu is still haunted by his past demons, though, and in addition, one of his superiors is jealous that Misako is interested in him.
Review: It already starts with the opening of "Village" that you are torn between being fascinated and a little bit bored. There is a Noh piece being performed, while flashbacks or flashforwards are added running parallel to it. So, there's something threatening announcing itself through the images and the singing of the traditional Japanese art form. And it's not only at this point that "Village" has a horror movie vibe, without ever really using elements from the genre anywhere. Most of the time, the story sees itself as a drama, and the village seems to reinforce the bad qualities of the people as it takes hold of them and won't let go until it has fully corrupted them. This is an interesting approach that counteracts the typical village idyll and promises to provide room for interesting characters. Unfortunately, the drama cannot live up to its promises, in the end.
Yu is a character with whom it is hard to sympathize right from the start. Even though he is bullied by a superior who is actually nothing more than a wanna-be yakuza, the hero is not particularly likeable, so you don't really care about it. And when his mother is introduced, who is in fact responsible for her son being tied to the village by debts, you have to wonder when there will finally be a lovable character. Ryusei Yokohama ("Usogui") plays the hero of the story with a constant hidden inner anger that only flares up at certain moments. In the course of the movie, he also undergoes a transformation, but Yu's potential is still wasted. Only Misaki finally manages to bring some light into the movie, so that Yu is also able to flourish a little bit. And on paper, all this seems quite promising: but it just doesn't work.
It's strange, but the movie's rather numerous characters somehow remain quite flat. Shido Nakamura ("Ichi"), for example, plays a childhood friend who is now a police officer. However, the trio consisting of him, Misaki and Yu is only touched upon briefly and then is shoved back on the sidelines. Furthermore, there's the mayor who is corrupt and somehow related to just about everyone, so he has sole control over the village. Interestingly, this eventually means that the village develops a life of its own. It is not only an all-devouring abyss, but also seems like the movie's real protagonist. In addition, there is the visual support of the village's sometimes beautiful images being contrasted with the garbage disposal facility, which immediately stands out as the eyesore in the landscape and represents the actual cancer that ruins the village.
Most of the time, the images look quite bleak, though. That's certainly the director's intention, but along with the very slow pacing, it can also make the "Village" pretty tiresome. On top of that, the story itself doesn't have much to offer either. At a certain point, it becomes clear that something has happened, but we will only find out about the exact course of events later on. The resolution isn't surprising, and the way Yu tries to solve the problem is also, to put it mildly, pretty dumb. Towards the end, though, there is at least something close to suspense, because you want to know what happens to the characters... until you realize that you don't really care that much - especially since in the end, everything is somehow quite predictable. The conclusion may go in the right direction and makes us think about the corruptibility of humankind - and the possibilities of defying it. But by then, it's too late. Our interest has already faded away.
In the end, you would have wished for the "Village" to have lived out its horror elements a little bit more. Seeing the villagers wearing Noh masks and carrying torches whilst walking in procession through the village exerts a certain visual appeal. However, this does not accomplish anything else. In addition, Taro Iwashiro's soundtrack is a bit too good and doesn't really fit "Village", as it reminds you too much of a thriller and therefore (but also because of the village charm) might also be reminiscent of something like his work for "Memories of Murder". There is even a love story hidden somewhere in "Village" which appears as a flicker of hope, but even here the movie doesn't get the most out of it. There are a few powerful images and symbols in the drama, but the slow pacing and the flat characters make it hard to recommend this movie. If the director had made a few adjustments, the result would certainly have been a fascinating movie. But the way it is, "Village" just doesn't tap its full potential.