A Filmmaker's Guide to: “The Sixth Sense” (1999)
An Appreciation of Cinema (Pt.14)
In this chapter of ‘the filmmaker’s guide’ we are going to explore some of the films that have changed our outlook of the possibilities in cinema in some way, shape or form. These can include, but are not limited to: revolutionary cinematography, narratives that challenge the social structure and the common view, trademark styles of auter cinema, brilliant adaptations of novels and other works, films of philosophical value and films that touch our hearts and souls with their incredible underlying messages and morals. Within each of the films in this chapter there is a certain something that makes them special and a certain something that makes them linger long after we have watched them for the first time. Lasting impressions are difficult to create, but I think that the films we will briefly touch on in this chapter are some of the films we will never ever forget.
“The Sixth Sense” (1999) dir. by M. Night Shymalan
There are many films that I remember from my childhood and one of them is “The Sixth Sense” (1999) by M. Night Shymalan. The reason I watched this as a child of around six years’ old was purely because my parents thought it would be a good idea to show me a film that they themselves had so thoroughly enjoyed. I won’t lie to you, I wasn’t very much scared because I hadn’t a single clue what was going on. I didn’t know why the child was scared, I couldn’t figure out why there was a girl underneath the bed with a video tape but I did recognise the guy from “Die Hard” and so for a few years after the first viewing, that was how I referred to “The Sixth Sense” (1999) - the movie with the kid and the guy from “Die Hard”. After a few viewing experiences during my teens, I realised that this movie was possibly one of the greatest pieces of cinema I had ever seen. The one thing I always favoured throughout my teens about this movie was the use of colours. Especially when Cole is in his tent and we get the fiery orange and red colours, the browns of autumn and the black and red colours of death and blood. The dramatic side of the film is really upheld by this. When the girl is inside the tent vomiting and when the boy is walking around with a gun and a massive hole in the back of his head, these colours are clearly visible. It is something quite awe-inspiring as to how it really sets the scene for you, it gives you a sense of loss and sorrow, something commonly associated with autumn.
Another thing that I love about this film is the atmosphere of cold that is created with the colours of ice, the condensation, the greyscale of dead bodies and such. I think that it is anti-cliché as many films depict zombies and the undead in greens and rather dark, strange and decaying colours. In M. Night Shymalan’s film, the dead bodies have this greyscale and almost clay-like whiteness to them which makes it impossible to not feel something for these people. It also makes their violent wounds stand out even more against the off-white and eggshell colour of the skin. It really is something to behold because it is through this that this sense of fright in the child, Cole, is created. You realise that he is not actually scared of the dead people, instead he is scared of their suffering which is so prominent against the colour of their fading skin.
This film was a giant part of my childhood because I always remembered watching it, but it wasn’t until years later that I figured out what it had all meant. It is an amazing film that I hold incredibly close to my heart as being one of my first experiences of real high intensity drama and thriller. It will forever be my first piece of exposure to such an incredibly and intricately crafted storyline with main characters so complex that you don’t realise the whole movie was actually in order to begin with. I will never really come to the end of my journey with this film and I think I will re-watch it just for the sake of it, yet again.
Once upon a time there was this person named Malcolm. He worked with children. He loved it. He loved it more than anything else. And then one night, he found out that he made a mistake with one of them. He couldn't help that one. And he can't stop thinking about it, he can't forget. Ever since then, things have been different. He's not the same person that he used to be. And his wife doesn't like the person that he's become. They barely speak anymore, they're like strangers. And then one day Malcolm meets this wonderful little boy, a really cool little boy. Reminds him a lot of the other one. And Malcolm decides to try and help this new boy. 'Cause he feels that if he can help this new boy, it would be like helping that other one too.
- Dr. Malcolm Crowe, "The Sixth Sense" (1999)