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Movie Critique / the Sixth Sense

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Film Critique / The Sixth Sense
For my final project, I decided to critique and analyze various features of the movie, The Sixth Sense. I will use a structural approach to examine the film’s edifice and explain how the productions of scenes and shots tell the overall story (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2011). I will demonstrate how the genre and the rating of the movie do not appropriately fit its criteria, and how the motion picture evaluation system failed by revealing horrific scenes to teens by assigning the PG-13 rating. In addition to that, I will illuminate inconsistent and unexplained actions with continuity glitches throughout the movie. Regardless of its mistakes, the film became a great success, because the plot of the movie allowed the audience to explore a different side of life after death and the grief that comes with it. Ultimately, the movie The Sixth Sense can be perceived as a therapy, because it gives us tools on how to deal with fear and helps us learn about the ways on how to come with terms of loss. It also explains the importance of communication between a doctor and the patient, a husband and a wife, a mother and a son, and of course, between our society and ourselves.
Two unalike families contribute to the story’s plot. Two separate lives of Cole (played by Haley Joel Osment) and his mother Lynn (played by Toni Collette), and a psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) with his wife Anna (played by Olivia Williams). The story begins with an ordinary psychologist, who practices in a private sitting to help a young boy in defeating anxiety and distress. During a quiet evening, a former patient (played by Donnie Wahlberg) breaks into the doctor’s home, who then shoots and kills the doctor, and at last commits suicide. Subsequently, the story continues with a different telling about the establishing of a connection between the doctor and a new patient Cole. Dr. Crowe discovers that Cole has an extraordinary gift, apparently he sees dead people. Cole is not happy with the idea of opening up to Dr. Crowe; however, after feeling a connection and a sensation of trust he decides to share all the details about his ability. At the same time, the relationship between Dr. Crowe and his wife Anna, unexplainably to Dr. Crowe slowly falls apart. Throughout the story, Dr. Crowe helps Cole to find a way to deal with his condition. Both characters develop a plan on how to help lost souls, who are trapped in a different dimension, so they can move on with their after-life. At the end of the movie, Malcolm finds out that the whole time he was dealing with Cole’s issues he too was dead. Not only did he help Cole to deal and cope with his gift, he also realized that the man who killed him had the same gift as Cole. At last, Dr. Crowe was able to let go and leave to where we accept to be the life after death (Mohmand, 2012).
As for the setting, the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania was carefully examined and lastly selected as the location for this film. Old houses, the historic church where Malcolm and Cole meet for their very first meeting, Cole’s school that used to be a legal courthouse back in the 18 hundredths. The director wisely chose all these antique features, because of the city’s extended history where many people lived and died (Roncace, 2010). The city naturally enhances the dark mood and the scary tone of the movie by providing all the elements needed. The picture’s historical surroundings add to the quiet and scared character of Cole and his frightening encounters. Greyish, dark bluish, and the lack of bright colors of the city of Philadelphia give a sense of simplicity, sadness, and even a little bit of misery. In my opinion, a perfect choice of city to make a horror/thriller in.
One of the interesting details I found in the movie is the fact that the director decided not to use the color red throughout the regular scenes. Only in few isolated scenes, we can observe a potent red indicating that danger is close by. In this case, every time Cole experienced a presence of a ghost we can find at least one piece of a red element in the scene. For instance, at the birthday party when a bright red balloon rose to the ceiling while we watched poor Cole struggling in a locked attic, the red tent in which he met the girl who was poisoned by her stepmother, and the red sweater Cole’s mom wore at the very moment when a woman died in car/ bicycle accident. Actually, it is not the first time the director M.Night Shyamalan used the color red as an indication of evil or supernatural. In his other movie The Village, the color red also represented the wicked and the paranormal. I believe that in this case, the color red symbolizes blood, death, and danger.
Realizing that Malcolm was dead since the shooting, the viewers attempt to recall each situation in the movie and try to asses and link that evidences to what really happened throughout the story (Monahan Huntley, Katharine E., n.d.). This calls for a stimulating and shocking ending; however, several scenes in the movie do not support that realization because it does not really work with the film's logic. For example, in the restaurant scene Malcolm says to his wife “I thought you meant the other Italian restaurant I asked you to marry me at". It is not clear when they made these plans. She cannot see him, so when did they communicate about the location she wanted to celebrate their anniversary dinner at. Besides, I do not understand why a psychiatrist would not communicate with his patient’s parents, in fact he does not communicate with no one at all. Dr. Crowe had a gunshot wound in his belly and yet he is the only one among the dead people who shows no signs of harm. Why was he not able to see other ghosts? How did he get the job to take Cole’s case? So many questions stay unanswered and that is why the logic has no play in this movie. On the other hand, the twist at the end of the film is the most important part of the plot because it makes you reconsider your thoughts about every single scene you watched. All the actors in the movie gave an outstanding performance. Even an unknown actor Haley Joel Osment, who played Cole’s character did a fantastic job portraying a genius who is often troubled and terrified at the same time. As shy and quite he is in the movie, I cannot imagine him being any different in real life. Either the casting director looked for someone who fits that description or Haley did an awesome job slipping into that role. Bruce Willis on the other hand, played action characters before taking this assignment. Yet, the director took a risk by allowing Bruce to prove his talent. In this film, he ditches s his smirking acting style to give a genuine performance, showing us that he can also be soft, considered, and concerned (Bruce, 2005). Moreover, by putting Bruce Willis’s name on the Sixth Sense poster M. Night Shyamalan was certain that it would bring in the big bucks and make the movie memorable. This role also furthered Mr. Willis’s carrier because it gave him the chance to show the audiences that he presents no challenges playing any given starring role.
M.Night Shyamalan, the director of this psychological thriller, who also worked on other suspenseful pictures such as, The Village, The Las Airbender, and many other dynamic movies, was able to achieve six nominations for “The Oscars”. The Sixth Sense received nominations for categories in Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Knowledge @Wharton, 2011). M. Night Shyamalan, who directed the film, also wrote the script. That is the reason why the movie is presented primarily through his explanatory point of view. In my opinion, Shyamalan did a fantastic job of hiding the truth until the very end. The director only displays information he wants the audiences to see, not more and not less. Not until the end, the whole plot of the picture is exposed. After watching and discovering the tragic end, I had to re-watch the entire movie. Shyamalan was successful with communicating his message to the audiences. He said that his style is unique and added that The Sixth Sense the movie “is reality based on fright. It comes from the fears of real people, real children, and real adults; fears of loss, the unknown of having a sixth sense about what lies beyond and fears of not understanding those intuitions” (Bruce, 2005). In his other productions, M Night Shyamalan also emphasizes on the paranormal and continues to use this theme, which in my opinion defines his persona.
Cinematography is one of the most effective components in the film The Sixth Sense. Tak Fujimoto, a cinematographer who also worked on several other horror movies like, The Silence of the Lambs and The Devil did a great job implementing camera angles and viewpoints to take away from any visible evidences of the actual movie twist that should only be discovered at the end of the movie (Petrie, n.d). For instance, when Dr. Crow walks into the restaurant to celebrate his wedding anniversary, the chair at the table was already pulled back for him. After the fact, we know that if Malcolm would have pulled the chair to sit down it would have eliminated the whole ghost idea. The cinematographer’s main focus was to place the cameras at an angle so he can distract the viewers and make us not pay any attention to details like that. Additional part of the careful and thoughtful camera placement in the film is the technique Fujimoto uses to arrange the view where Cole and Dr. Crowe are both present in the picture. Many scenes only focus on the doctor, putting his patient Cole into the background and make him seem less important, yet in some parts, we observe the view from Cole’s perspective. The movie’s mise en scène is cleverly manipulated to conserve the narrative’s idea, in anticipation of the unexpected twist at the end of the movie. Flashbacks were integrated and the end of the movie, by using this technique the cinematographer’s intention was to disclose all the scenes with obvious signs of Dr. Crowe’s condition.
Tak Fujimoto uses dim lighting during the course of the movie; however, there is one scene where we can observe a rather bright light, precisely after Vincent shoots and kills Dr. Crowe in the beginning of the movie. The bright light may symbolize a soul leaving the body, or it also may be a representation of a start to a new chapter, this all happens while the picture slowly changes into a new day, new surroundings, and new circumstances.
Impressive costumes and make – up was used on dead people. These are pretty much the only special effects that we can observe in this film. Remarkable detailed graphics of the victim’s wounds, burn marks, headshots, hanging bodies, and a vomiting scene from a girl who was poisoned by her stepmother.
The editing in The Sixth Sense provides a skillful refinement to the film. However, I could not help but notice several mistakes made by the editor Andrew Mondshein. For example, when Malcolm Crowe goes back to his office to listen to the recorded session he had with Vincent, we can see a tape in the tape recorder labeled with words “Vincent Grey – Session Tape 7/1” but when he touches the recorder again several minutes later, the tape shows no sign of a label. Another scene that had a continuity glitch is the scene where Cole’s mother is gathering dirty laundry around the house; she stops and notices Cole’s baby pictures hanging on the wall, in this scene, we can clearly see her wearing lipstick on her lips. Yet when she leaves the hallway and starts picking up her son’s laundry, we notice no lipstick at all. Although many small mistakes were made by the editor, the handling was used in a clever fashion. This is evident in the scene where Vincent commits suicide; the viewer only sees the pistol for a short time. The film was modified to manipulate coverage to conserve a disguise that Dr. Crowe is still alive. This is done to make sure that the ending of the movie in fact will demonstrate an effective surprise (Begley, 2000).
The great composer James Newton Howard delivered the music and the sound effect to the editor Andrew Mondshein, who then integrated his work into the disturbing and frightening portions of the movie. It certainly balances the conversation and the passion of each piece. Importantly to the outcome, Andrew only incorporated the precise quantity of sound effects with a persistence not to overpower the whole nervousness of the picture (Filmtracks, 1999). Mostly the music is rather harmonic, although its tremendously controlled capacity makes it only slightly stimulating.
I had the hardest time trying to put the movie into the right category. I would not necessarily classify the movie as a horror movie; however, some of the scenes can make your hair on your neck stand up. The movie matches many mixes for genres such as, drama, horror, mystery, and psychological thriller. There are too many features functioning together in this dialogue-focused picture. In my opinion this film does not meet the requirements as a typical horror film. In reality, it is so exceptional in its own way that I would probably create a new genre just for these types of films. This motion picture is uncharacteristic for any genre, mostly because none of the components relate to a specific one. However, the movie is filled with heart-pounding moments, and to be specific very emotional moments at times. Its paranormal energy allows the audience to experience a different type of relationship between the real and the supernatural world, and I also believe that The Sixth Sense brings an awareness of one’s surroundings. It makes you think of what is real and what is not.
In addition to the genre classification, I have noticed that the movie The Sixth Sense was rated as a PG-13 film. In my opinion, the rating system did not recognize several inappropriate elements of the movie that would clearly make an adult freak out. These terrifying materials and violent images are not suitable for children under 17. In addition to that, a teenager’s mind is not prepared to understand the complexity and maturity of the emotions in this movie. This film was clearly made for adult eyes only.
It is very important to understand why movies are made. The viewer must recognize the connections between each element, because if these elements do not flow or interact with each other, the plot of the movie and the knowledge of the message could be completely lost. In order for all of parts of a film to accomplish an expected result, the categories must work together to make the film resonate with the spectator. Once the audience understands the idea and how it forms or enhances the story, the viewer is able to recognize the relationship between the cinematography and visual style, the symbolism and narrative elements, the acting and dialogue, and the sound and music. Only then, the production team can call their picture a success.
As previously mentioned, all the elements presented in this amazing picture, tell us a story about a young boy with an extraordinary gift, and a psychologist who is determined to help his patient to overcome fears and achieve trustworthiness in connections and relationships. The obvious content of the movie The Sixth Sense concludes in a very deep meaning, telling us that truth is the key to all successful relationships within a society. There is also a hidden message in this story that things are not what they seem to be. After watching this movie, the people are able to understand that our world is not always black and white, and that we should not judge people who are going through situations we know nothing about. Relationships issues concerning a mother and a child, or a husband and his wife, may have a source we do not see. In this case, the structural approach was the best method for evaluating this movie because we were able to slowly observe how all the structures of the film and the plot itself comes together to develop a comprehensible story.
References
Begley, Damian (July-August, 2000). Andrew Mondshein, Editing with a Sixth Sense. Motion Picture Editors Guild. Retrieved from: https://www.editorsguild.com/Magazine.cfm?ArticleID=488
Bruce, D. (2005). The Sixth Sense (1999). HOLLYWOODJESUS. Retrieved from: http://hollywoodjesus.com/sixth_sense.htm
Filmtracks (August 26, 1999). Editorial Reviews. The Sixth Sense. Filmtracks Modern Soundtrack Reviews. Retrieved from: http://www.filmtracks.com/titles/sixth_sense.html
Goodykoontz, B. & Jacobs, C.P. (2011). Film: From Watching to Seeing. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Retrieved from: Ashford University
IMDb.com (2011). The Sixth Sense (1999). Retrieved from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167404/
Knowledge@Wharton (December 07, 2011). M. Night Shyamalan: Seeing Signs.Knowledge @ Wharton. Innovations and Entrepreneurship. Retrieved from: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2893
Mohmand, Rohan (March 30, 2012). The Sixth Sense. Static Mass Emporium. The Essence of Film. Retrieved from: http://staticmass.net/deconstructing-cinema/the-sixth-sense-movie-1999/
Monahan Huntley, Katherine E. (n.d.). Movie Analysis: “The Blair Witch Project” and “The Sixth Sense”. Dramatica, a Write Brothers Website. Story Analysis. Retrieved from: http://www.dramatica.com/story/film_reviews/reviews/withc6thsense.html
Petrie, Boyd (n.d.). This Is One Creepy Psychological Drama You Don’t’ Want To Miss! News and Entertainment.com. Retrieved from: http://rhinoxsis.homestead.com/zmsixth.html
Roncace, Kelly (2010). Philadelphia Movie Site Tour Takes Visitors to Filming Locations in the city. Gloucester County Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/towns/index.ssf/2010/03/philadelphia_movie_sites_tour.html

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