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This issue's selected FeatureOur Film of the Month and moreNews from this issueContents of this issueHow to Buy this issue

FILM OF THE MONTH – Nov 2001

From Dec 2001
Film Review

4 Stars - RecommendedTHE OTHERS

Film Review Hotline

Also reviewed: Bandits
More November Recommendations

Nicole Kidman in The Others

Official site (Buena Vista)

STARS Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Eric Sykes
DIRECTOR Alejandro Amenábar
SCREENPLAY Alejandro Amenábar
CERTIFICATE 12
DISTRIBUTOR Buena Vista
RUNNING TIME 1hr 44mins
OPENING DATE November 2

So scared was I that in the middle of the screening of The Others I nipped out for a quick wee. Returning bent double, so as not to obstruct the audience’s view, I slid back into my seat, squeezing my friend’s knee. It was here that she, a tough cookie, leapt out of her seat with a blood-curdling scream. Put it this way, The Others will shred the toughest nerves as thinly as parmesan.

Good, old-fashioned ghost stories on screen are hard to come by. In the face of modern special effects, it’s a genre that hasn’t been considered very ‘modern’. Haunted house material has been limited to The Haunting and The House on Haunted Hill, films peopled with gorgeous actors and inhabited by ghouls manifesting themselves out of four-posters and Daido rails. The Others, refreshingly, is the subtle crafting of a genuinely spooky tale. The film is grounded in suspense, presenting the idea of horror rather than the actuality, and I can guarantee that it is all the more frightening for it.

Kidman is Grace, an English woman living alone in a mansion in Jersey. Here, immediately after the second World War, she awaits the return of her husband (Eccleston), currently missing in action. The film begins with a knock on the door. Three serving staff have come to apply for housekeeping jobs. Strange, seeing as her existing staff only disappeared into the fog the night before…

Accepting the aid of Mrs Mills (Flanagan), Mr Tuttle (Sykes) and Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), Kidman explains house rules. Firstly, her two children, Nicholas and Anne, are allergic to light, so the house must be kept in permanent darkness. Secondly, and inexplicably, each and every door in the house must always remain locked. Within this morbid atmosphere, life goes on. Kidman teaches her children and bangs on disturbingly about religion, with her Catholic hell fires very much burning.

The sense of unease increases when her daughter insists there is another little boy in the house. A boy whose family start to make an awful lot of noise. Such as footsteps, banging and playing the piano at 2 in the morning. Grace, initially in denial, resists believing her ears until the haunting cannot be ignored. And even the return of her war-ravaged husband cannot alleviate her building panic.

The reason The Others works so well is that writer/director Alejandro Amenábar stalls the answers as long as possible and the sophistication of his plot leaves one in agonized suspense until the bitter end. His environment is equally atmospheric, permeated in mist and darkness, his blue and green filters give a moody sense of period and he allows the film to be still and silent, all equally masterful.

It’s interesting that the back-story to this film is as complex as its plot. Amenábar, whose second feature, Open Your Eyes, was one of Spain’s highest-grossing films ever, has entered the commercial market under the mantle of Tom Cruise. Cruise has remade Open Your Eyes with Cameron Crowe directing as Vanilla Sky, and then subsequently supported The Others into production with ex-wife Kidman as star. His split with Nicole was then related to his relationship with Vanilla Sky co-star Penélope Cruz, and the media frenzy around the lot of them served to increase The Others’ commercial cachet. The only shame being that, in all this mess, one thing’s been overlooked: the actual talent and originality of Amenábar. And that, my friends, is almost as spooky as the film itself.

Lórien Haynes

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

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