the pathetic caverns - movies by title - The Others
eclectic reviews and opinions
2001, D & S: Alejandro Amenábar
The Others is a creepy and marvelous little anomaly: a quirky ghost story that eschews gore in favor of old-fashioned Jamesian, even psychological suspense. Although a title at the beginning of the film tells us it's set in 1945, the mood is mostly 19th century, a motorcar or two notwithstanding. Grace, a young woman living alone with her two children in a huge house fifty rooms with fifteen different locks between them engages a trio of taciturn, black-clad servants, who seem strangely familiar with the house and its troubles strange sounds, restive inanimate objects. Are the servants as stolid, honest and ordinary as they claim to be? Is Grace? Are the children as angelic as they appear? And what of Grace's missing husband, not yet back from the war? It's a classic setup, and Amenábar's careful pacing steers the film almost entirely clear of the parody it could easily fall prey to.
Nicole Kidman is terrific in the difficult role of Grace, mama to little Anne and Nicholas it's quickly apparent that she's got a few screws loose or perhaps wound too tight? but she nonetheless managed to convince me that her love for her children was genuine, even when its expression took odd forms. Alikina Mann's portrayal of the daughter was superb she dances between precocious and willful, smart and courageous. Amenábar's haunted house kept in perpetual gloom to protect the "photosensitive" children is a virtual catalog of atmospheric lighting tricks. He occasionally stoops to gimmicky visual clichés, but mostly the effect is genuinely eerie.
The worst thing about the film is that it's set up to have a "surprise" twist, but it telegraphs its punch line just a little too plainly a lot of momentum was lost in the "all is revealed" sequence. But even without the benefit of surprise, it's a satisfying dénouement, honest to its internal logic, and the final punch is both creepy and oddly sweet.
The best thing about the movie was that afterwards, my walk down an almost deserted, tree-lined, dark street to the metro station was distinctly spooky in a way that had nothing to do with worrying about any of the conventional risks of wandering around cities at night. It took several minutes before the world began to seem normal again.
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