A troubled child psychologist takes on a kid that is able to make contact with the dead.
Still haunting, still dark, and still gripping. This is more of a reminder than it is a review. By now, everyone knows what happened, how it happened, and when it happened. The reason I am resurfacing it though is to quickly remind you why it still cinematically matters, and, maybe, encourage you to watch it again this festive period.
I’ll leave out the couple of obvious plot holes that could have been paranormally interpreted in more than one way and avoid the use of reason in explaining how we get from one act to the next. But… I’ll focus on a couple of significant details that you either missed back then or possibly forgot over the years, such as the colour red. The award, the made-up house, the clothes, the staircase, the balloon, and, of course, the mysterious doorknob that does not open the door are only but a few examples of the colour’s usage that pushes the narrative forward but also betrays the film’s twist. This pattern is waiting for you to unravel it and grasp its importance in relation to Cole and his bliss or curse, depending on how one perceives that sixth sense of his.
The other mystery that makes the whole difference in the world in understanding the way the story unfolds is distinguishing who tells the story. In other words, whose story is it? What Cole knows that everyone else doesn’t is now known. What Dr. Crowe doesn’t know, but Cole does is also now known (back then none of it was). The answer lies in the camera angles. What the camera shows and the way it shows it gives away the person or entity’s point of view. These angles also establish where the audience stands at any given moment, something that wouldn’t have been possible if the editing wasn’t such. Ultimately, after the film’s twist is revealed, understanding whose story it is will put into perspective who helps whom, and will provide answers to most of the complex questions.
Bruce Willis captures the essence of his role, Toni Collette gets her first (and last) Oscar nomination, and Olivia Williams supports the story to her full extent (she’s an equally brilliant actress). But the ultimate surprise couldn’t be anyone else other than Haley Joel Osment (also, first and last Oscar nomination), the wonder kid that was later seen in films, such as Pay It Forward (2000) and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). And if you are wondering how a kid goes from a film like The Sixth Sense to A.I., know that in both films, producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall (husband and wife) are behind both productions. Even though that’s a story for another time, keep this in mind: Kennedy started as a production assistant in the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), helped develop films such as Gremlins (1984) and The Goonies (1985), and made the Star Wars universe what it is now. George Lucas might be the mastermind behind it, yes, but, without her wouldn’t have expanded to the lengths that it has now. Again, just to keep in mind how behind ostensibly irrelevant films the same people call the shot. Food for thought…
With The Sixth Sense, at the turn of the century, M. Night Shyamalan established himself as the new dominant ‘player’ of the thriller/horror genre, despite the numerous ups and downs that followed. I believe I speak for all of us when I say that we all look forward to the Knock at the Cabin (2023).
Filmmaking is an intriguing and intricate process and The Sixth Sense is an intriguing and intricate film that took years to decode the techniques behind its effect on the film industry. I hope you enjoy it once more.
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