"The Sixth Sense" isn't a thriller in the modern sense, but more of a ghost story of the sort that flourished years ago, when ordinary people glimpsed hidden dimensions. It has long been believed that children are better than adults at seeing ghosts; the barriers of skepticism and disbelief are not yet in place. In this film, a small boy solemnly tells his psychologist, "I see dead people. They want me to do things for them." He seems to be correct.
The psychologist is Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), who is shot one night in his home by an intruder, a man who had been his patient years earlier and believes he was wrongly treated. The man then turns the gun on himself. "The next fall," as the subtitles tell us, we see Crowe mended in body but perhaps not in spirit, as he takes on a new case, a boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) who exhibits some of the same problems as the patient who shot at him. Maybe this time he can get it right.
The film shows us things adults do not see. When Cole's mother (Toni Collette) leaves the kitchen for just a second and comes back in the room, all of the doors and drawers are open. At school, he tells his teacher "they used to hang people here." When the teacher wonders how Cole could possibly know things like that, he helpfully tells him, "when you were a boy they called you Stuttering Stanley." It is Crowe's task to reach this boy and heal him, if healing is indeed what he needs. Perhaps he is calling for help; he knows the Latin for "from out of the depths I cry into you, oh Lord!" Crowe doesn't necessarily believe the boy's stories, but Crowe himself is suffering, in part because his wife, once so close, now seems to be drifting into an affair and doesn't seem to hear him when he talks to her. The boy tells him, "talk to her when she's asleep. That's when she'll hear you." Using an "as if" approach to therapy, Crowe asks Cole, "What do you think the dead people are trying to tell you?" This is an excellent question, seldom asked in ghost stories, where the heroes are usually so egocentric they think the ghosts have gone to all the trouble of appearing simply so they can see them. Cole has some ideas. Crowe wonders whether the ideas aren't sound even if there aren't really ghosts.
Bruce Willis often finds himself in fantasies and science fiction films. Perhaps he fits easily into them because he is so down to earth. He rarely seems ridiculous, even when everything else in the screen is absurd (see "Armageddon"), because he never over-reaches; he usually plays his characters flat and matter of fact. Here there is a poignancy in his bewilderment. The film opens with the mayor presenting him with a citation, and that moment precisely marks the beginning of his professional decline. He goes down with a sort of doomed dignity.
Haley Joel Osment, his young co-star, is a very good actor in a film where his character possibly has more lines than anyone else. He's in most of the scenes, and he has to act in them--this isn't a role for a cute kid who can stand there and look solemn in reaction shots. There are fairly involved dialogue passages between Willis and Osment that require good timing, reactions and the ability to listen. Osment is more than equal to them. And although the tendency is to notice how good he is, not every adult actor can play heavy dramatic scenes with a kid and not seem to condescend (or, even worse, to be subtly coaching and leading him). Willis can. Those scenes give the movie its weight and make it as convincing as, under the circumstances, it can possibly be.
I have to admit I was blind-sided by the ending. The solution to many of the film's puzzlements is right there in plain view, and the movie hasn't cheated, but the very boldness of the storytelling carried me right past the crucial hints and right through to the end of the film, where everything takes on an intriguing new dimension. The film was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, whose previous film, "Wide Awake," was also about a little boy with a supernatural touch; he mourned his dead grandfather, and demanded an explanation from God. I didn't think that one worked. "The Sixth Sense" has a kind of calm, sneaky self-confidence that allows it to take us down a strange path, intriguingly.
Scene Analysis of The Sixth Sense
- Length: 391 words (1.1 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Scene Analysis of The Sixth Sense
In the film the Sixth Sense a young boy named Cole has paranormal
contact with the dead. He can see things that other people cannot,
namely the ghosts of the dead walking around him. The scene which I
have chosen to analyse to answer my title is the scene where he is at
school and brings up facts about what used to go there like people
being hanged and eventually he erupts at this former pupil now teacher
who used to have the nickname Stuttering Stanley. Cole brings back
this fact about him from the ghosts of the people he sees. The teacher
had lost his stutter but Cole brings it back.
At the start of the scene the teacher is talking in a very confident
voice, he is very assertive and calm. The camera angle also reflects
this, as it is set at the back of the class from the perspective of a
pupil, it shows all the pupils looking at the teacher. This acts as a
total contrast to what he used to be like when he had his stutter.
This also makes the end of the scene seem more emotional as we see the
teacher lose his temper by smashing down on the table and begin
Throughout the scene a boy is writing lines on a blackboard. The image
and sounds that this can create are put to good use to add to the
meaning and to create emotions in the viewers. When Cole says about
how people used to be hanged in the building the boy writing on the
blackboard suddenly halts, this movement creates a screech of the
chalk against the board. It's a harsh sound. It shows the mood and
feel of the scene has changed. This s because before we had the
constant noise of the chalk against the blackboard but after the
screech the noise has stopped creating a more uncomfortable
atmosphere. The harshness of the sound also mirrors the harshness of
what Cole had just said.
Another use of the blackboard is to show the downwards spiral of the
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teacher's confidence. Where the boy had stopped writing on the
blackboard and began looking at what was going on a line had been
drawn going almost directly downwards where he was not thinking about
what he was doing. This reflects how the teacher's confidence is going
down and how the teacher had no control over it or what he was doing.
At the climax of the scene where the teacher loses his temper the
camera is off centre. This creates an uneasy feel to the scene, which
is how the teacher and other pupils are feeling. It also reflects how
the teacher is off balance from his normal behaviour. This helps you
to empathise with the teacher and get a glimpse at what he is feeling.
Altogether the director uses many techniques to make the scene more
emotional for the viewers. He used camera angles to show what the
characters feel; there are ongoing images and sounds of a blackboard,
which reflect what is being acted. Without these features the scene
would be less dramatic and not have the desired effect to make the
film into what the director wants.