Release date: August 6th, 1999
Running time: 107 minutes
Writer and director: M. Night Shyamalan
Composer: James Newton Howard
Cast: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Olivia Williams, Toni Collete
The twist: 01:32:22 to 01:38:00
When I was around nine or ten, I believed when a character dies in a film, he or she was dead in real life. Then one afternoon, a familiar face appeared on the screen – someone who died in a film I had seen before. I was shocked and shouted, “I thought he was dead! Wasn’t he?”
I was told it’s all acting. In the end though, it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I was intrigued. It unlocked a mystery and inspired me to create and develop ideas and characters in my mind. I decided to take on scriptwriting but there was always a sense of apprehension whenever I grabbed the pen to put down the first scene. Maybe I was not intrigued by the plot, and sometimes I felt maybe it’s impossible for me to write a script.
That was until I saw the films of M. Night Shyamalan. His creativity opened a door in my mind and heart in an emotional sense. I believe Shyamalan is a courageous artist whose originality not only moves but also inspires, especially the tone and atmosphere of his stories and characters. Shyamalan often sheds a light on things that we are missing, we don’t yet realize are important or are essential even to perceive in real life.
In The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan deals with fear from a unique point of view. Through his story, fear has taken refuge in our imagination. It truly becomes a sixth sense; fear is one of the most basic human emotions and instincts, and Shyamalan has taken advantage of this very sagaciously.
The film tells the story of Cole (ardently played by Haley Joel Osment) who communicates with spirits that don’t know they are dead. He seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis).
The beauty of The Sixth Sense is that it seems just like another horror film but truly represents the three main genres – drama, thriller, and mystery. We are not dealing with blood, gore, knives or claws. From its opening credits up until the scene where we discover the truth about Malcolm, we are guided by few obvious clues, clues that force our minds to paint something different than the eyes render with each scene, and we accept what’s going on with the characters until one of the most shocking conclusions in cinematic history is revealed.
The story is also about human communication that breaks into pieces more than once during the film, for example, Malcolm’s complicated and ruined marriage after a tragic incident at his place, and the relationship between Cole and his mother, Lynn (Toni Colette). The entire script is fragile, and each scene has clues we comprehend only later when we discover that Malcolm has actually been dead all along.
In the final scene, Malcolm arrives at home after promising Cole he would see him the next day. Malcolm enters the living room and smiles when he sees his wife, Anna (Olivia Williams). She is asleep in a chair, curled up in a ball. Their wedding video is playing on the television. Malcolm takes a seat next to Anna.
We not only witness the impact of loneliness but can also comprehend the beauty of love, and our journey with Malcolm has brought us to a point where our emotions are as high as his. We become aware of the truth about love – that it is as beautiful as it is dark.
Anna talks in her sleep.
I miss you.
What, Anna? What did I do? What’s made you so sad?
Why did you leave me?
MALCOLM (with moist eyes)
I didn’t leave you.
These simple, yet emotional and meaningful lines of dialogue are still toying with us. We believe in Anna now. Any minute she will feel Malcolm’s presence and wake up. They will kiss and forgive each other.
Then there is silence, Anna falls back into deep sleep. Her arm slides down and something shiny falls out of her hand and rolls away on the ground. Malcolm gazes curiously at a golden wedding band lying on the wooden floor. He looks at Anna’s hand and sees an identical ring sitting on her finger. Malcolm looks at his own hand, and his wedding ring is gone.
In the same moment as Malcolm, we realize he is a ghost. He remembers Cole’s words when he tells his secret to Malcolm in the hospital:
But what is a spirit? Where does it come from? Some refer to these terms as soul — a moral being, distinct and independent of matter, preserving its individuality after death. The idea of beings that survive the body is found as a belief in all civilisations, with many pronunciations and definitions. Whether or not you believe that ghosts do walk the earth, the story of The Sixth Sense doesn’t want you to. Shyamalan’s central character, Malcolm, delivers a universal message.
The doctrine, according to which the soul is a cause and not an effect, is that of spiritualists. The moral teachings of the higher spirits may be summed up, like that of Christ. ‘Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you.’ meaning do good to all, and wrong no one. This principle points to a rule of conduct, a way of life — from the smallest matters to the greatest. In a way, it is this rule that Shyamalan conveys through Malcolm, who is pure and innocent.
Eventually, Malcolm rises and states that his mission is over, and he decides to disappear forever. His feelings for Anna remain eternal. With the film’s final moments, Shyamalan has defined the greatest story ever told in his own way, the story many people wholeheartedly believe in.
There will always be new ideas, concepts and “tricks” from many writers and directors that will inspire our hearts and minds but Shyamalan’s artistic stroke is labelled as a true device. With a single close-up shot, he has probably also inspired generations of filmmakers.
Ultimately, The Sixth Sense is a powerful story about human communication, or the absence of it. In the end, we see little Cole in tears, revealing to his mother that he sees ghosts, and his mother — without thinking that her son is a “freak” — eventually accepts this as a fact. He is special; he has a gift that is not so blessing. It’s through communication we comprehend each other and solve many problems, whether big or small.
Rohan is the lead US correspondent for Static Mass. Graduating from High School in Atlanta, Georgia in 2003, Rohan fell in love with the environment of the cinema hall and moving images on the big screen, watching Bollywood, American and Iranian films.
As an aficionado of film noir, mysteries, drama and thrillers, he enjoys the films of Alfred Hitchcock, M.Night Shyamalan, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan. Engrossed by the originality of his favourite filmmakers it opened a door for him to take on writing scripts as well.
The reverence of directors, actors, stories, art and cinema allows him to experience films with an open mind and leads him to believe strongly in the correspondence of films with the occurrences of the real world.