The Others (Alejandro Amenabar, 2001)
[originally posted 24Sep2001]
Without Nicole Kidman, The Others would have been relegated to art houses, cleared less than ten million, and would have those of us who revere Tarkovsky urging the rest of the heathen to go see it as soon as humanly possible. Now, it’s starting to look as if it’s going to hit a hundred million and become the only summer movie that actually delivered the goods.
Grace (Kidman) is one of the last remaining inhabitants of the Jersey Islands in 1945. Her husband went off to fight a year and a half previously, and there’s been no word since; the British government has advised her to assume he’s been killed in action. She lives with her two photosensitive children (Alakina Mann and James Bentley, both in their screen debuts) in a mansion where the servants just up and left the week before. One day, three new servant-types, led by the indomitable Bertha Mills (Fionnula Flanagan of Waking Ned Devine fame), show up and, after a bit of interrogation, see to the domestic duties. Hot on their heels start a number of ghostly appearances, whispering, all that sort of thing.
Everything that is brilliant about The Others has to do with cinematography. Composition of scene. Perfect scene after perfect scene after perfect scene. Amenabar has created a visually stunning piece of work that just happens to have a workable plot and some fine characters, thus the Tarkovsky ref (cinematographically, there were more than a few times during this movie I thought about the wondrous landscapes in Andrei Rublev).
No one takes that much time and pays that much attention to detail anymore, save arguably M. Night Shyamalan. Wonderful, excellent, fantastic. Predictable, too, but who cares? The first film I’ve seen this year that rivals Memento for the top spot on the year’s-best list. See it ASAP. ****