Between Two Worlds gives the impression of being a documentary about
the history of supernatural experiences and about the validity of the
more compelling ghost sightings that have been reported, but is more of
a psychological examination of what may very well be an actual need
that humans have to believe in ghosts.
M. Night Shyamalan tells about how civilizations and cultures have had
ghosts stories for thousands of years all over the world, and goes on
to point out that in his own research on the subject, children who have
claimed to have seen ghosts almost invariably come from homes broken by
divorce, NOT from experiencing deaths in the family. This makes sense,
really, because everyone experiences a death in the family eventually,
it's one of the sad realities of human life. On the other hand, my own
parents divorced when I was four and I never saw any ghosts, I'm just
afraid of the dark, even now, more than 20 years later. Make your
psychological evaluations at will.
William Peter Blatty, the author of The Exorcist, makes an appearance
in this documentary and tells some very compelling stories about his
own experiences with ghost sightings. He has never seen one himself,
but he tells a story about his infant son that is pretty hard to argue
with. One day his son looked off into a corner and smiled and said,
"Ghost." When Blatty asked him about it later, he asked if it was a
man, no, was it a woman, no, then what was it?
This is a theme that seeps over into The Sixth Sense, although not in
exactly that way. The ghosts in The Sixth Sense are not happy, but they
are not malevolent. They don't want to hurt people or even scare
people, they just want help. Spielberg took the same approach in Close
Encounters of the Third Kind, approaching the possibility of
extra-terrestrial life not only from a point of view of pure
fascination, but with the idea that not only is there other life out
there, but that we don't have to fear it.
Bruce Joel Rubin, the director of Ghost and Jacob's Ladder, makes a
powerful point about the differences in the ways that adults and
children see the world, another favorite theme of Spielberg's, who used
it to great effect not only in Close Encounters (where Richard
Dreyfuss's character recovered some of that lost childhood purity and
was able to begin to believe) and, even more famously, in E.T. Rubin
explains that children have that purity of vision that we lose as we
grow up and that adults are desperate to recover. It's amazing how
right he is.
The film makes some powerful religious assertions, such as the one that
if you are with someone at the moment of their death, you can feel a
presence in the room, you are definitely not alone, it's a powerful
religious experience. I've never been with someone at the moment of
their death, but I can put more stock into that idea than I can in the
majority of religious references, which play a very small part in my
life, if any at all. But that is the point that this documentary is
trying to make, that you don't have to be a religious person to take
ghost stories like these seriously, even if only for entertainment
Between Two Worlds is designed to explain one of the reasons that The
Sixth Sense was so successful, even in a time when the usual real life
things that create interest in horror movies depression, war,
political strife, etc. - do not exist. The Sixth Sense, according to
this documentary, was successful because it taps into something that
just about every person has in the back of their mind but that no one
talks about, the possibility of the existence of ghosts that are around
us at all times.
Shyamalan did not make a ghost story like the ones we are used to,
which are exploitative films that are meant to scare us, but one which
goes to great lengths to create a real world, with child psychologists
and worried mothers and schoolyard bullies, and he puts ghosts into it.
This is a movie about real ghosts in the real world, not scary monsters
meant to scare you so badly that you drop your popcorn. Watching The
Sixth Sense, you forget the popcorn is even in your lap.
In this documentary, we see several other filmmakers, as well as
Shyamalan himself, talking about experiences that they've had in their
lives that led them to create the stories and movies that they did, as
well as to tell about their own beliefs in ghosts, which their films
are so famous for bringing to forefront of our minds. This documentary
makes it more and more difficult not to believe in ghosts in some way,
but most importantly (and this is one of the most important things
about The Sixth Sense as well), it makes you want to believe.
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