Monday, April 26, 2010

Sixth Sense

Watched Sixth Sense today. I like M Night Shyamalan’s Signs and am willing to pursue other of his films. I do not know how I managed to miss this one, tho I do flinch when Bruce Willis is mentioned. Smart ass Hollywood Republicans give me dyspepsia. I should get over it but his insouciant smirk irritates me. Also: he mumbles.

The movie featured a lot of atmosphere, the music signaling ominously. It took me a while to get into it. Starting in media res, the movie leaves one puzzling. The bit with the failed client of Willis (Donny Wahlberg overacting, if you ask me) startles in a quizzical way. Whoa! Then Willis gets shot! Fade to months ahead.

The very first scene, when Willis’ wife seems to react to something in the basement, is a mystery that remains explained till the end. Negative Capability calling. The movie does not really begin till after the shooting, when Willis meets Haley Joel Osment.

I am amazed by films in which the child actor carries the burden. HJO did the heavy lifting while Willis floated around him. Scenes end with soft fades. Not to say that Willis wasn’t good. That floating was appropriate, as we learn.

The pacing seemed oddly laconic, despite the suspensefulness. We are aware that ghosts are about before anyone except HJO. When we actually see the ghosts, they are ordinary, tho wounded (literally). The spooks are underplayed.

The movie resonates with the hypersensitive boy who does not fit in with other children. Willis shuffles thru the story, feeling distant from his wife. The story reaches a seeming crescendo when Willis discovers what the ghosts want. He listens to tapes of the patient who shot him, and realizes that he suffered what HJO suffers: visitations of the dead. Well, I swan to John!

Willis urges HJO to fight his fear and listen to the ghosts. This brings HJO to the funeral of a girl. The girl as ghost gives the boy a VCR tape. VCRs used to be the only way people could entertain themselves. HJO delivers the tape to the girl’s father. The tape reveals that the girl’s stepmother was poisoning her.

And there is the crux. The ghosts seek help. Movie over. Except…

I was unprepared for the real ending. Willis goes home to his wife. He talks to her. During this, she drops his wedding ring. He hasn’t been wearing it! He realizes that he did not survive the shooting. He remained here to help the boy and make amends for the patient that he lost.

This sent the mind back to earlier scenes where Willis appeared but never interacted with anyone but HJO. I want to see the movie again with that in mind. It brings to mind the movie Ghosts, but much less smarmy. More compelling, it also reminds me of Turn of the Screw. Sixth Sense is less mysterious but the hypersensitive child is consistent.

The gotcha at the end, when Willis realizes that he is a ghost, really hangs with me. The movie’s sadness is unrelenting but Shyamalan handles it well, with sensitivity. I mean, Ghost ends with a malarkey note while SS seems to comprehend something human. Haley Jo Osment was terrific and Willis was not a complete dick.

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