At the end of the second half of 1999, the movie world was awestruck by a phenomenon at the box office. Blair's Witch (1999) debuted in theaters around the world, breaking records and showing the public that there was a new way to fix people in their seats, fearing the protagonists' next step. Less than a month later, still not remade from the witch's fright, behold, the film by a hitherto unknown director hits theaters, surprising with its atmosphere of wonder. This director is M. Night Shyamalan and his work: The Sixth Sense.
It is precisely the focus given to these four characters (Malcolm, Anna, Cole and their mother) that makes The Sixth Sense so terrifying: by making the viewer 'intimate' with its protagonists, Shyamalan makes us really care - and fear - for they. But that's not all: the camera work of this young director is also extremely skillful, especially in the sequences that take place inside the apartment in which the boy lives: slight oscillations in the frames give us the impression that that little family is constantly being observed. By the spirits that trouble Cole. Furthermore, the tone of the narrative becomes even more frightening thanks to the clever photography of Tak Fujimoto, who deftly explores the Gothic style of some points of the architecture of Philadelphia, where the story takes place.
The secret brought by young Cole is revealed only in the second act, until then, there are no frightening sights or hauntings. The spectator follows the facts in the physician's perception, anticipating this revelation, in a slow and cadenced narrative, when the boy's discomfort becomes evident and is transmitted to the public, without sparing them the shivers. From then on, the until then psychological drama is enveloped by supernatural elements with the presence of disturbed ghosts in search of help. There are the school hangmen, the one who knows where the gun is hidden and the girl who drools - always scary displays, accompanied by the right soundtrack and smart, well-chosen camera placements.
It becomes impossible not to get caught up in the drama of little Cole. Now, who would have the courage to approach these entities in a state of absolute suffering to try to listen to them and make them understand their new condition? Among the rules observed by the boy, two are fundamental, but which make it easier for the public to foresee the final surprise: 1) one ghost does not see the other; 2) many do not know they are dead. Even with this anticipation of this surprise, Shyamalan acts consciously in the presentation of the pieces that will lead to the climax as the red color shown only at the right moments, leaving the final revelation just like the icing on a cake enjoyed and enjoyed slowly.
It's wrong to think of it as just a ghost film, which is a shallow vision of a well-formed work about the end of a relationship, the difficult acceptance of a separation, when each axis avoids seeing the other. In fact, all of the director's work allows for a deep analysis of life stages hidden in supernatural metaphors. Just as an example, Body Closed can be seen only as the emergence of a hero and, consequently, a villain, but it also brings a reading of divorce through opposites; Signs is a film about alien invasion making up for the loss of faith in the face of the death of a loved one; and even the criticized End of Times brings a cataclysm and a pre-apocalypse to show that Men, by destroying Nature, walk backwards in evolution, slowly committing suicide...
The film is a beautiful spider's web, set up to catch the viewer and make us intrigued and curious about the unfolding of the story. Everything in the film reminds us of other facts that, later, make us understand and connect the dots of this great web that Mr. M. Night Shyamalan involves us. The script sculpted (yes, the term is 'sculpted') by the director is not only clever, but also full of such subtle details that after the film is over, I want to watch it again in order to try to understand. It in all its magnitude. No information is free and - detail - many of them go unnoticed until, suddenly, we realize that something relevant had been said a long time ago, leading us to recapitulate everything that happened so far, in a delicious attempt to reassemble the intriguing break -heads proposed by the plot.
In fact, it all lies between the lines - if only we could take a closer look. Yes, Dr. Crowe is dead and I believe it was the biggest plot twist of my time, but if we notice, whenever someone goes to talk to Cole and that person is alive, there are never any outlying colors in the scene. The film's photography is morbid and cold, giving a feeling of strangeness and unease, as if something is always going to appear behind the door or when the camera changes direction, however, when we notice that he was confronted by a spirit, always there is something in red on the scene, always! We can also notice that whenever they are talking together, there is never anyone around, or, if there is, they do not pay attention to the adult, only to the child, another sign that he was not really there.
Even when Malcolm is sitting across from Cole's mother, Lynn (Toni Collette), at no time does she look away or talk to him, only to her son. When Crowe goes to his house and tries to work on the case, there is always a distance with his wife, and if we look deeper, she is always alone at the dinner table at the restaurant, at her house and at the service, she never mentions her husband and live watching the wedding footage, which is unusual for someone who loves her husband as presented at the beginning of the film; even after the attack, she would never let go.
Cole's conversation with Crowe at the hospital was the final card to fall apart. After all, he told everything that Crowe was and couldn't see, just like us. We are not talking about a horror movie, we are working on a very well-produced suspense, where we are immersed in the depth of the characters' relationships, the fears that move us and how we are able to deal with the ending, if it really exists. The soundtrack is very well thought out in order to make us feel what the characters are thinking at the moment, be it fear, uncertainty or relief.
With all the great acting in the plot, and the incredible way M. Night Shyamalan directs the film, we audiences don't see all the signs of this incredible plot twist. But once we understand everything, The Sixth Sense starts to have a completely different story from what we believed it to be from the beginning. And that's precisely why this film brought all the fame of M. Night Shyamalan, and a completely deserved recognition. In addition, he took the opportunity to use color theory in his production. Everything that is red in the scenes is related to the death of the ghost that Cole sees, be it personal objects, clothes or even environments.
However, even this brilliant script could have been damaged if the protagonists' performances weren't convincing - and they are simply brilliant, highlighting the superb work performed by little boy Haley Joel Osment, possessed of enormous talent. His character composition reveals not only an impressive precocity, but also a profound professional responsibility - it is evident that he immersed himself unreservedly in the creation of the troubled Cole. His pauses, looks and inflections are always effective in every scene, helping to make his implausible character completely believable to the viewer.
But much of the credit is also due to Bruce Willis, as his perfect chemistry with Osment is vital to the audience's ultimate involvement. But that's not all: his frustration at the breakdown of his marriage is conveyed with great sensitivity, especially as he talks about it to Cole in what is one of the most emotional scenes in The Sixth Sense. Meanwhile, Toni Collette is also moving as she portrays the frightened Lynn, Cole's mother. Her despair at not understanding what is affecting the boy is only matched by her frequent attempts to get him to 'relax', as when pushing him in the shopping cart. (It will be a great injustice if the Academy does not grant nominations to all three). Also noteworthy are the strong presences of Olivia Williams, as Malcolm's wife (although her participation is small, which is one of the few flaws in the film), and Donnie Wahlberg, as the distraught Vincent.
The Sixth Sense is a sensory trap, a film that traps the viewer from beginning to end, offering a multitude of visual experiences that are perfectly constructed by its director and screenwriter M. Night Shyamalan in his first film of relevance, and also what it would mark his career forever. Blending features from different genres, The Sixth Sense cannot be described merely as a 'suspense', as it is not only capable of scaring us: tears and laughter (these more sporadic and with a nervous background) are also present throughout the projection.
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