25 September 2011

The Sixth Sense (1999)

M.Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense (1999) tells the story of renowned child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) who seeks to redeem himself after failing to help a disturbed patient. Dr. Crowe takes on the task of curing Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) of his severe paranoia and social anxiety driven by his ability to see dead people. Dr. Crowe's undivided attention to Cole's problem seems to be putting strain on his marriage. Through Dr. Crowe Cole comes to the realize that in order for the ghosts to go away he needs to listen to them.

Throughout The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan employs many different features of mise-en scene. The two big elements that I want to focus on are on props, particularly contextualized props. Another big defining element in the Sixth Sense is the use of the color red in setting the mood and ambiance in certain scenes.
In one of the first scenes with Cole Sear, we see his mother adjusting the thermostat and remarking how cold it is. This doesn't really mean all that much, but as the film progresses it becomes apparent that the thermostat foreshadows the appearance of a ghost. The close-up shots of the thermostat and the rapid temperature drop induces a sense of suspense in the viewer. The use of the thermostat shows how an ordinary object takes on such a greater role by telling the viewer that something is about to happen.
The use of the color red is something that is very interesting and carefully placed in this film. By carefully placed, I mean when there is red in this movie it isn't random, it stands out likea sore thumb. The red color in this film is almost always associated with the spirits Cole sees, or occur when something is about to happen. Some of these items include the door nob to Dr. Cole's basement office, the red balloon at Tommy Tammisimo's (Trevor Morgan) party, the red numbers on Dr. Crowe's volume control.
As the film progresses, the meaning of the color red becomes increasingly obvious. This is seen when Dr. Crowe is working in his basement and is analyzing recordings between he and Vincent Grey (Donnie Wahlberg). In this scene as Dr. Crowe is listening to his recorder, he starts to hear the voice of one of the ghosts. As he turns up the volume the numbers get more and more red.
Overall I feel that M. Night Shyamalan employed these elements of mis-en-scene brilliantly. I would definitely recommend this film to anyone who hasn't watched it yet.

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