Japanese films set in the countryside sometimes portray folks out in the boonies as more pure-hearted, if less sophisticated, than city slickers. However, provincial communities are more commonly depicted as miniature dystopias where the narrow-minded reign and young people with any ambition feel compelled to leave. Only the failures among them return.
Such is the case with the title hamlet in Michihito Fujii’s latest film, “The Village.” Based on Fujii’s original script, the story unfolds in the fictional Kamon-mura, a mountain enclave once known for its noh theater productions during the annual summer festival, but now dominated by a big recycling plant that supplies a massive landfill. The concrete plant building looms ominously over the village like the castle of a medieval robber baron.
It also symbolizes the film’s simplistic good-versus-evil melodrama, replete with bad guys who might as well be twirling mustaches as they cackle. Those expecting the pointed political commentary of “The Journalist,” Fujii’s 2019 true-story drama that won armloads of awards, will leave disappointed.