Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village share striking similarities in theme. Plato’s allegory deals with themes of ignorance and being indentured—if not enslaved—to second-hand projections of reality. The Village and its characters live under this same force. The characters in The Village are governed and held by shadows, much like those chained in Plato’s cave, and much like Plato’s allegory, if those in the village manage to see the projections for what they are and attempt to break free from the cave, they face the risk of death from those still trapped in the cave.
In Plato’s allegory, the idea is that we as humanity are chained to a wall in a cave and shown shadows of life. We are told that those shadows are the reality and truth of life; however, reality and truth truly exist outside of the cave—where we cannot reach. The essential idea of this narrative is that shadows are controlled and manipulated, and those manipulated shadows keep humanity ignorant of what is truly important and truly matters. This ignorance cripples each person in humanity for the duration of their life. Plato addresses that there will be some that recognize that they are only seeing shadows projected on a wall, and not the actual light from outside the cave. These few will strive to make it out of the cave, and when they do, reach back in to pull others from humanity out of the cave as well. However, when they do attempt to reach for the others in the cave, those in the cave will kill the person trying to save them, as they are unable to see true knowledge and true help when it comes. This narrative is a driving force in The Village, and in many ways the film follows the same structure.
In the film, Ivy Walker is the daughter of one of the village’s elders. The elders are essentially councilmen and councilwomen that determine the village’s trajectory. We are not told what year it is in the film, and those in the village live as if they are frontiersmen. Because of this, it appears that they are living sometime in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. The only thing that we know is that there is a village among the backdrop of wilderness, and that those in the village can never venture into that wilderness due to a monster.
Ivy Walker is also completely blind, which is a characteristic that is symbolic of those in the cave. Ivy is in love and deeply connected to another member of the village, Lucius Hunt. Late in the film, Lucius is stabbed by a mentally ill member of the village and is dying. Ivy is desperate to save Lucius, but can only do so with outside medical help. If she does not venture into the wilderness to find medical help beyond what the village can provide, Lucius will die. Ivy is told by her father that the monster is a “farce,” and was created to make sure that the children never tried to leave the village and go into the wilderness. Moreover, the village was created to be separate from the outside world, where it was too dangerous for the elders to continue to want to be a part of. Ivy’s father tells her that they live beyond modern civilization, and that there is medicine that can help Lucius, but that Ivy will have to go into the wilderness and beyond to receive it. Eventually she is abandoned by the two others sent with her, because they see the monster. The same mentally ill man that stabbed Lucius attempts to stop her from leaving, much like the people of the cave. She blindly makes it beyond the wilderness and into modern civilization to receive the medicine that Lucius needs.
The narrative that M. Night Shyamalan’s film follows is immensely similar to that of The Cave. Ivy is one of the rare ones that sees those who are projecting images onto a wall and telling people that it is humanity. She climbs out of the cave, or the village, and is almost killed for doing so. However, because she makes it out of the cave, she achieves the highest knowledge, and with that knowledge is able to free the others from the projections of reality and their chained lives.