Light burns and darkness shrouds in Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others, a dollhouse thriller that dares to challenge The Sixth Sense as the definitive comment on ghostly insecurity. Fans of M. Night Shyamalan’s spooker may or may not spot Amenábar’s pony within the film’s first hour but there are enough red herrings in this tale to subvert anyone’s expectations. Gone are the humanitarian missions of cross-dimensional souls. Instead, Amenábar plants post-war solitude and dying religiosity before a backdrop of ghoulish shadows and claustrophobic mists. The icy Grace (Nicole Kidman) wallows in bemused torment within the walls of her labyrinthine Victorian mansion, protecting her photosensitive children from the sunlight that seeps through curtain-covered windows. Her servants have vanished without notice, leaving Grace to seek out more dependable help, which comes in the form of three wanderers: motherly housekeeper Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), elderly gardener Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes) and young mute Lydia (Elaine Cassidy). From the onset, Grace makes the most stringent demands, prime of which is that any door leading into a room be locked before a door leading out of the same room is opened. Grace’s husband (Christopher Eccleston) has never returned from the war and, as a result, she becomes emotionally isolated inside the home. But there are visitors in the house, witnessed by Grace’s daughter Anne (Alakina Mann). Amenábar’s doors close with chilling precision while paintings seemingly hint at impending dooms. Invisible hands strike piano keys but evidence of intruders is nowhere to be found. Grace walks on the grounds outside the home and, in the film’s most spine-tingling scenario, finds herself encapsulated within a fog-filled forest, only to be greeted by her long-lost husband. Amenábar’s dioramic eye recalls the most claustrophobic and frilliest of Poe tales, his religious concerns grounded in a Latin perspective that is always mindful of the journey the soul must make from the physical hereness to an insecure otherness. However unavoidable the film’s final revelation may be, it still goes remarkably hand-in-hand with everything that transpires prior. Amenábar is as mindful of religion and spiritual turmoils as he is a doubting Thomas. Most fabulously, each character’s hesitant or steadfast relationship to God seemingly informs their awareness of their immediate surroundings. The Others evokes a hierarchically-informed spirit world where chaos and acceptance is par for course on one’s way to supreme enlightenment. It’s also pretty scary.
- Alejandro Amenábar
- Alejandro Amenábar
- Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan, Elaine Cassidy, Eric Sykes, Alakina Mann, James Bentley, Rene Ascherson
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