The sixth sense impressed film critics when it was released in 1999. The film uses the assumption of the audience that Dr Crow is alive to feed the story line and shock the viewers at the end. M. Night Shyamalan the director uses many different techniques to achieve this varying from colours to camera angles; in this essay I am going to analyse two important scenes from early on in the film that play a key part in the audiences belief that Dr Crow is alive. These scenes are: the restaurant scene and the scene where Dr Cole is in the house with Cole’s mother.
We see Dr Crow in different ways in the two scenes; in the scene with Cole’s mother he seems professional and in control. While Cole’s Mother is talking to him we get several medium close ups of Dr Crow he is smiling to himself. We take this as an air of professionalism; we think he is observing their relationship. He is smiling to himself we think he might be happy as earlier in the film Dr Crow discovers scratches on Cole’s arms which could have been caused by the mother but on observing their obviously loving relationship he realises he is wrong.
However the way we perceive him in the restaurant scene is different. Instead of seeming professional and in control he now is awkward. As an audience we think his wife is not speaking to him because she is angry, that he forgot about their anniversary. We know he’s late because of the way he walks in quickly and then apologises; it now appears that the thing he is in control of before (his work) is what is losing him the control of other parts of his life.
Of course in actual fact the audience is unaware of the fact that the reason his wife seems distant is not because she is angry but actually mourning him on their anniversary. Death is an important theme in this film. The question of life after death is raised but not completely answered. The film more deals with the effect it has on others. Anna has to deal with the grief of losing a loved one and as we see in the restaurant it is a difficult process for her. Dr Crow does not believe he is dead, he wanders the earth as a ghost because he has unfinished business on earth.
It is only when he has helped Cole and settled things with his wife that he is free to move on. The body language between characters also makes us perceive that they can see Dr Crown like we can. In the scene with Cole’s mum and Dr Crow the scene opens on a medium shot of Dr Crow and Cole’s mum sitting down opposite each other. Their knees are angled away from each other; we feel like we have walked in on a conversation that has just ended and are now in an awkward silence. We see Dr Crow looking at Cole’s Mother so we assume that she can see him too.
In the restaurant scene we see the Dr Crow and his wife sitting at a table, when the waitress walks past she also does not see anything extraordinary, the audience just makes the assumption that the reason they are both there is they are going to have dinner. When the waitress puts the bill down in the middle o the table facing Anna and she grabs it. This is actually one of the clues that Dr Crow is not really there but as an audience we just assume that because Anna ate the meal she is paying to show him she doesn’t need him.
The relationships between both Cole and his mother and Dr Crow and his wife are themes in this film. The message being put across to the audience is that without communication relationships break down, only with trust can they work. There are bits of dialogue that also play a part in making us believe that Dr Crow is alive. Dialogue is potentially one of the things that could hinder our belief in Dr Crow being alive. If no body ever seems to be talking to him it could easily seem they do not know he is there, to over some this clever techniques are used.
In the restaurant scene Anna does not say anything throughout the scene to Dr Crow for most of it. We assume she is angry with him for being late and being so involved in his work although as an audience we might become suspicious if she says nothing at all throughout the whole meal. At the end of the meal just before she stands and leaves she says ‘happy anniversary’ which makes us believe that she is just angry at him and trying to make him feel bad for being so late and self absorbed on their anniversary.
Another bit of dialogue that makes us assume Dr Crow is alive is at the end of the scene with Cole’s Mother when she says ‘you got an hour’. Although she is actually just telling Cole when dinner will be it seems to the audience that she is leaving them for an hour to have their first session. This film is set in Philadelphia one of the oldest bits of America; it’s red brick buildings tell us the story of his past; autumn leaves decay and die just like the lives that are lost. This is important to the film as it has the history needed to create the supernatural atmosphere.
There is a general mood that lingers on the past; the ghosts we begin to see are from all different time periods only with the common goal of setting right the things they left behind. We do not expect Dr Crow to be part of this supernatural past. We see him as an understandable human being, both the scenes at the restaurant and in Cole’s living room are very normal places, places we would expect Dr Crow to be as a human, so we have no reason to believe him to be anything else.
When we see the ghosts later on the film they seem frightening; one girl is covered in vomit; others are seen hanging in the school. However Dr Crow’s costume and presence give us the feeling that he is completely normal. We perceive him as what we where introduced to at the start while he was alive, the audience and Crow do not believe anything had changed. The camera angles used also play a subtle but key part in making us believe Dr Crow is alive. It does this by making us make assumptions because the camera is pointing in a certain way.
In the restaurant scene this is used quite a lot as a technique; when Dr Crow enters the restaurant and sits down an over the shoulder shot from Anna’s point of view is used so we can only see Dr Crow’s face not hers. We feel like we are in Anna’s perspective, so as we can see Dr Crow we assume as we are from her point of view she must be able to too. From this over the shoulder shot we see her lift her head up which makes us think she is responding to what Dr Crow is saying even though we still cannot see her face.
This technique is used again to make us think Anna is looking at Dr Crow. This time a medium close up is used of her profile so that when we see her move her head up although again we cannot actually see where she is looking we assume she is looking at him. In the scene with Dr Crow and Cole’s mother this technique is used less in that way. The reason in this scene we think Dr Crow is alive is that he is going to be Cole’s new therapist; this is confirmed later in the scene when Cole and Dr Crow talk. The camera angles help us build on this belief.
The scene opens on a medium shot of Cole’s mother and Dr Crow this makes us think that they are sitting talking because it is showing us both of them at the same time. The door becomes the central focus of the shot, this makes the audience anticipate Cole is going to come through the door and assume that he is what they are waiting for. As the door opens the medium shot stays even though Cole’s mother gets up to greet Cole. This is another thing that could be taken as a clue that Dr Crow is not alive, however the audience just thinks that Cole’s mother is understandably very worried about her son.
It is understandable that the audience believes that Dr Crow is alive; as generally when you see someone walking along a street you understand them to be alive. These assumptions are built on with the help of camera angles, dialogue, body language and the ways characters and their situations are presented to us. Although we are given subtle hints that at the end we look back on as flashbacks and realised we have been deceived. The film ends when Dr Crow himself begins to believe Cole and finally realises much to the audience’s shock that he himself is a ghost.