Alexandro Amenabars debut English-language movie makes a revolutionary breakthrough in the horror movie genre. Set almost entirely within a gloomy and atmospheric Victorian-style castle it creates an impression of a classic Gothic movie at first. Such Gothic elements as ghastly weather, an old house with creaking floorboards, ghost apparition and a distressed woman as the main character set the viewer into the mood for seeing a typical ghost story. However, in fact it is nothing like any ghost movie. Amenabars The Others shifts the viewers perception of what a ghost movie is and does something that hardly any horror movie has ever done before. The assumed Gothic story appears to be a masterfully crafted anti-Catholic representation of the existence beyond life.
The minute the plot directly reveals that Grace and her children are actually dead and continue to live in their house as ghosts together with the houses new alive inhabitants or intruders, the whole message and accents of the movie change and it becomes something more than an ordinary ghost horror movie. Until the climactic scene where Anne tells the old woman how her mother suffocated her and her brother with a pillow, Amenabar gives quite clear allusions to the truth about this family. The mind-blowing revelation in this scene puts everything in its place and all the strange words of Mrs. Mills suddenly make a perfect sense. For instance, when she is giving Grace the reason why she, Lydia and Mr. Tuttle left the house, she said: Tuberculosis, that was the real reason of their death.
The most important issue that differentiates The Others from all the rest of horror movies is its bold attempt to shed some light onto the question of what the world of the dead may look and feel like. The first thing that catches the eye in the movie tone after the family realizes that they are dead is how Amenabar questions Christian ideas about the afterlife. Grace used to tell her children that they could go to childrens Limbo if they ever lied. She told them that Limbo was a place in the very middle of the Earth centre and it was eternally hot and painful there. However, when Grace realizes that she killed her children and herself, she is no longer sure of any religious apprehensions. Anne asks her mother: If we are dead, wheres Limbo? and Grace replies that she does not know whether Limbo exists at all (The Others). Amenabar intends to show that the afterlife is just like a shadow of life and the changes are not that huge. Nonetheless, there are things in Amenabrs vision of the afterlife that appear to be true about Christian beliefs. If Christianity is about love and forgiveness, then God does forgive Grace and give her a second chance to be a good mother for her children. However, it seems more likely that this place that the family gets into after they die has no God at all. At least, there is no Catholic God who should have placed Grace in hell. There is also a drastic difference in Grace when she is liberated from her religious ideas. She loses her extreme sternness with children, the character trait which was dehumanizing her to a great extent (Hansen, 285). Thus, the filmmaker is actually trying to show that religious beliefs are not only useless but even harmful making The Others a truly abhorrent movie for millions of Catholic adepts.
Despite the seeming similarity of this afterlife place to the world of the living people, some things are different there and Mrs. Mills tries to talk about them to Grace even before the woman realizes the truth about her situation. People just change after they die and Mrs. Mills implies that those who are dead now have to come to grips with the new situation. For instance, they cannot see the alive that is why Grace says that the servants just disappeared and the postman stopped coming one day. Lydia stops talking after she discovers that she is dead, Anne and Nicholas recover from their photosensitivity, Grace is no longer mad and Mrs. Mills and her family do not suffer from tuberculosis any longer. Grace also loses her vanity and tells her children that she is no wiser than they are and she hardly knows anything about being dead. Mrs. Mills comes to the house like an instructor for Grace because newly-died people seem to be similar to newly-born they know nothing about how to be dead and have to be taught by those who have been dead for a longer time.
The most striking thing about the world of the dead is that the dead seem not to judge each other for what they did while they were still alive. Mrs. Mills only says Death of the loved one can lead people to do strangest things (The Others). Graces husband who died in the war also seems to be completely disorientated but he also does not blame Grace for what she did to their children and herself. The children also seem completely bewildered about their new situation but forgive Grace too.
However, after the first minutes of shock and perplexity the family acquires the behavior typical for all the ghosts. Grace understands that the only place they can live in is this old house so she makes Anne and Nicholas repeat the mantra This house is ours! This house is ours! that sounds creepy and mysteriously when heard from the perspective of the alive. Earlier in the movie it was clear that Grace cannot leave the house: when she tries to go outside the gate she is caught in the fog and loses her way. After the family discovers the truth, the fog, symbolizing their ignorance, dissipates and gives way to the bright sunshine of hope. Anne is dancing in front of the window wearing her new snow-white communion dress. She is obviously not scared anymore about being dead. On the contrary, she is happy that the sunshine does not hurt and her mother trusts her now.
Therefore, in Amenabars version of afterlife dead people continue shadowing their past lives. Amenabar does not give the direct answer to the question of how long this can last but the implied answer is eternally. Mrs. Mills says that sometimes the dead can sense the alive and sometimes they do not, but thats the way its always been (The Others). Mrs. Mills makes the viewer understand that being dead is much like being alive. The dead are also scared of the alive when they encounter them in the dark long corridors. Sometimes the world of the living gets mixed up with the world of the dead (The Others), - all the wise ideas in the movie are put into the mouth of Mrs. Mills who seems to be the expert in both life and death. The final scene of the movie is the first time the viewer can see Victor, the boy whom Anne claimed to have seen in her room. Victor is visibly reluctant to leave the house as he probably liked having the opportunity to see Anne there. He is gazing into the empty windows as if trying to catch a glimpse of Anne inside. His father rushes him into the car and the whole family departs leaving a For Sale sign on the gate. The Intruders are leaving but the others will come (The Others) Mrs. Mills is using the phrase the others to denominate the living people and thus the movie title acquires a new meaning. The living people are equally different and scary for the dead as the dead are for the living. People whether alive or dead will always be scared of anything different from them and incomprehensible from a standard point of view. Therefore, the movie can also be interpreted as a tale of prejudice and self-centrism. Those who are on the other side will always be perceived as adversaries. Even though Mrs. Mills utters in an accommodating spirit that they must all learn to live together, the living and the dead, Grace seems not to take notice of her words. She mutters repeatedly: This house is ours and No one will make us leave this house (The Others). The audience can see that she is determined to fight for what she considers hers. Grace acquires a ghostly perception of reality in to time.
To sum up, The Others seems to be an absolutely new kind of horror movie. It tries to portray the dead peoples existence from their point of view with all of their feelings of helplessness, perplexity and fear. The movie shows that the dead are in many ways better and improved versions of their live selves: they accept their faults and ignorance and do not judge each other. The director also makes a brave statement that Catholic beliefs about Hell, Purgatory and Limbo are far-fetched and just false. Despite the movies macabre atmosphere and religion-fighting content, it warms it way to the heart of almost any kind of audience with its genuinely human touch and deep philosophical reasoning.
Hansen, Regina. Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film: Essays on Belief, Spectacle, Ritual and Imagery. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. Print.
The Others. By Alejandro Amenabar and Alejandro Amenabar. Dir. Alejandro Amenabar. Perf. Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionula Flannagan. 2001. DVD.
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