I See Dead People - a Film Critique

Topics: The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan, Narrative Pages: 9 (3892 words) Published: November 7, 2011

I See Dead People – A Film Critique
In the genre of horror movies, only four movies have been nominated for Best Picture. One of those nominated was The Sixth Sense. Nominated for six academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Actress, this movie became almost a religious experience for viewers because the movie facilitated examining grief and the afterlife. Once could go so far as to say that the film allowed some to come to terms with their own experience with loss. In a very real sense, movies are therapy for our culture and one of the primary issues dealt with in therapy is loss. The Sixth Sense became a sort of therapy for many viewers. Anyone can enjoy a film by simply watching it. Discovering the theme, however, is often a different story. The movie The Sixth Sense thrills the viewer with plot twists and misleading clues, but also makes a statement with a social impact. By analyzing the techniques and methods of film making used it will become clear that the director, M. Night Shyamalan, managed to create one of the most noteworthy films of the late twentieth century. The word criticism usually has a negative connotation. Criticism of a film, however, often is the tool used to find a deeper meaning or an analysis of what the film makers’ message to viewers will be. This essay will use a structural approach in critique. This will be achieved by examining the film’s structure and how the constructions of scenes and shots tell the story (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). This approach will dig deeper to find the meaning of the film through hidden messages, or symbolism, within the film in order to discover whether the film does what it sets out to do. The film The Sixth Sense had enormous success at the box office because of the simple twist at the end of the film. Opening on August 6, 1999, which also happened to be the director’s birthday, it was successful enough to come in first at the box office and remain there for three weeks (Lavick, 2006). This was surprising because the director was largely unheard of, but word of mouth among movie-goers assisted the movie in climbing to the top. Another factor in the success of the film at the box office is that viewers felt the need to view the film more than once to try to catch the cues given throughout that were missed the first time around. A brief overview of the film could be stated as follows: A psychologist works to help a child overcome his overwhelming fear and anxiety. There are two subplots in the movie as well, the story of the small family, Cole and his mother, and the story of disconnection between the psychologist and his wife. The movie opens with Malcolm Crowe, the psychologist, celebrating an award with his wife Anna. A former patient breaks into their home and shoots the doctor. After this event the story moves along to the relationship forming between Dr. Crowe and young Cole Sear. Cole has extra-sensory perception, as referenced in the title; Cole sees dead people. Cole is reluctant to work with the doctor; however, Dr. Crowe pushes the issue and finally makes a breakthrough with the child. While this work is taking place, the viewer is exposed to the disconnection between Cole and his mother and Malcolm and his wife. In a surprise twist at the end of the film, it is revealed the Malcolm is dead. He is one of the ghosts appearing to Cole which has caused the overwhelming anxiety to the child. Dr. Crowe, upon the realization of his state of being, is able to move on to what the viewer assumes is the after-life. Ultimately, the beauty of the story is that “The main protagonists themselves are oblivious to the presence or true nature of the enigma; the introduction of the twist thus represents a kind of catharsis that we as viewers are invited to share by being sympathetically aligned with them.” (Lavik, 2006). The overwhelming...
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