Others, The (2001)

Director:  Alejandro Amenabar
Cast:  Nicole KidmanChristopher EcclestonFionnula Flanagan
Plot:  A woman who lives in a darkened old house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that her family home is haunted.

Genre:  Drama / Horror / Mystery
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - lead actress (drama). Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice).
Runtime:  104min
Rating:  PG for thematic elements and frightening moments.

Alejandro Amenabar’s first foray into English-language filmmaking is a largely successful one.  One of the most striking filmmakers to emerge in the late 1990s, Amenabar is a skillful craftsman whose talent extends beyond directing into screenwriting and also into film score composition. 

Born in Chile but raised in Spain, the director of acclaimed dramas such as Open Your Eyes (1997) and the Oscar-winning The Sea Inside (2004) gives us a fine addition to the horror genre with The Others, a mainstream production made with authority.

The Others is assured of a spot in the upper echelons of contemporary horror cinema where films like Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999) and Bayona’s The Orphanage (2007) reside.  In an uninformed reality, Amenabar’s film comes across as a fusion between the two abovementioned pictures. 

That being said, it would make more sense to chronologically observe the influences each has had on one another over the years.  Similar to Shyamalan’s film, The Others has a climatic twist at the end (don’t worry, there are no spoilers ahead) which equals in ambitiousness but strangely unmatched in terms of shock value.

The Others stars an excellent Nicole Kidman in the lead role as the mother of two children whom are photosensitive (read: allergic to sunlight) and must be kept perpetually in the dark (an intriguing plot device). The huge house they live in does have a sinister past of a ghostly nature.  What seems like a straightforward ghost story turns into an exercise in atmospheric mood setting. 

Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe creates lingering, almost elegant-like shots of the exterior of the house which is nearly always hidden in thick fog.  For interior scenes it is mostly lit by candlelight (a requirement of the plot device), giving an eerie glow that is both warm yet chilling.

Speaking of chills, The Others has one prolonged spine-tingling sequence in the final third: the two children ‘escape’ from the confines of their room in the middle of the night only to find themselves in a small graveyard with suspicious servants pursuing them.  The mood setting here achieves its pinnacle.  Amenabar does stick to the rigid expectations of the genre, but he explores them with a fresh approach mainly through its unconventional plot.

The role of darkness versus light is reversed in this film.  Here, the children seek solace in the dark but are traumatized by daylight.  Their mother, on the other hand, feels uncomfortable in darkness but is at ease when it is bright.  This allows Amenabar to tap on the fears of the characters and to create tension in two extreme settings. 

The Others is clever filmmaking, boasts artistry and is clear in its execution.  At its heart, it is a film about challenging one’s beliefs and the need to stand true and firm when these beliefs are challenged.


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