Review by Michael Jacobson
Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Alakina Mann, James Bentley
Director: Alejandro Amenabar
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Dimension (Buena Vista)
Features: See Review
Length: 104 Minutes
Release Date: May 14, 2002
only thing that moves here is the light…but it changes everything.”
The Others seems a bit slow moving the first time you see it, it’s only
because you think you have a handle on what’s happening, and you’re waiting
for the conclusion rather than anticipating it.
It’s not a flaw in hindsight, because by the time the movie is over,
you begin to realize that what you thought was significant was not so much, and
couple of years prior, The Sixth Sense surprised audiences around the
world, and I have to say that The Others is at least every bit its equal
in that capacity. It’s an unusual
story about a haunted house that relies more on atmosphere than special effects,
and invokes the audience’s imagination rather than its knee-jerk reactions.
It boasts an impeccable lead performance by Nicole Kidman as the fragile
mother trying to keep her sanity in an increasingly insane situation.
We’re never quite sure if what we’re looking at is the result of A)
supernatural phenomena, B) the trickery of her bizarre new servants, or C) her
own state of mind. I suppose you
could also add D) all of the above. What
would that make choice E)?
movie was written and directed by Spanish wunderkind Alejandro Amenabar, a
filmmaker I’ve admired for a while now. You
may have been covertly introduced to his work if you’ve seen the Cameron Crowe
movie Vanilla Sky, which was an extremely faithful remake of his picture Open
Your Eyes. The Others is his
third feature, and his first in English, and it shows the sense of style, pacing
and maturity you’d expect from a seasoned veteran behind the camera…but
Amenabar is shockingly only 28 years old.
Kidman is flawless as Grace, a mother of two living in a huge house in England
around 1945. Her husband went off
to fight in the war, but there has been no word of him since.
As the picture opens, she is welcoming three new servants to the house,
who are replacing the ones that vanished without a trace a short time prior,
with no explanation and not even collecting their wages.
new lead servant is Mrs. Mills (Flanagan), who does most of the speaking for the
group. She claims the three of them
were servants in that house a long time ago before it belonged to Grace…they
have returned because they were happy there.
has some strange rules for the house, which for the most part, is kept extremely
dark. The reason is her children
Anne (Mann) and Nicholas (Bentley) are both allergic to light…exposure to any
luminescence much brighter than a simple candle could mean their deaths.
All around the house, curtains must be kept closed, and no door opened
without the previous one being locked behind, in an effort to keep unwelcome
light from accidentally spilling into a room.
problem is that with the arrival of the new servants come strange occurrences.
Noises, voices, music…what does it all mean?
The only explanation offered is from young Anne, who claims to see
visions of a young boy, his parents, and a frightening old woman.
We are told she is an imaginative and inventive child who likes to spin
stories; is she making it all up? If
not, the house must be haunted, right?
distinct alternate possibility is that servants are behind it all.
Another is that Grace herself might be unbalanced.
We are told by Anne that she “went mad once”…what does that mean?
No matter…it causes us to not only experience the situation through
Grace’s eyes, but to keep a watchful eye on her as well.
Her behavior might just be a clue in unlocking the mystery.
house has a great look to it, and the cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe is
superb, as lighting is often sporadic and deliberately low.
In working with Amenabar, he helps create an atmosphere where the
supernatural is possible, or where there is enough shadow to maintain a fakery
as well. By keeping both
possibilities open, it leaves us wondering up until the very end.
And that very end is something no force on earth could make me reveal.
The Others. Prepare to be
is a new textbook written for making a DVD transfer out of a sparsely lit film,
and it is called The Others. I
can’t even imagine the work it took to get this disc to look so incredible,
but the result is one of the best transfers I’ve seen this year.
It doesn’t matter how low the lights go, there is still an amazing
amount of detail and surprisingly little grain (though a tiny amount is frankly
unavoidable as contrast levels have to increase to compensate for less light).
Colors are superb in every scene, rich in natural looking tones that seem
to correctly reflect either the light or absence of light at all times.
Check out the scene where Grace goes walking in the fog…fog is normally
a compression nightmare, but here, the effect is clean, as are images
disappearing and appearing in it. This
is a stunning technical achievement…highest marks.
5.1 audio is good, but not quite as impressive as I had hoped.
There is a great amount of dynamic range, but unfortunately, some of it
comes from levels being too low during quiet scenes.
In the early going, some of the dialogue is faint and requires careful
listening. But you don’t want to reach for the volume knob too early
or you’ll regret it later. Certain
sequences, as you might expect, make good use of the surround channels and
subwoofer, but they aren’t as plentiful as you might expect.
Amenabar also composed the score for his movie, and it comes across with
great clarity and range. Apparently
there is a DTS version of this soundtrack available in other regions…I’d
definitely be interested in comparing the two.
be fooled by the fact that this is a double disc set…the features, while
decent, aren’t exactly numerous. There
is “A Look Inside” featurette, containing interviews with Amenabar, Kidman,
producer Tom Cruise and others, a short visual effects piece (you may think the
film had no visual effects, as I did, but it turns out they are very subtle), a
short piece on a family dealing with Xeroderma Pigmentosum, the ailment the
children in the film suffer from, an “intimate look” at Amenabar which is
really just a short piece that watches him direct, a stills gallery, and a
trailer. Sorely missing is a
commentary track with Amenabar, who speaks English quite well.