‘The Others’ is a film written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar. This supernatural thriller was produced in 2002, and like most films of its genre, it combines suspense, shock and unexplainable events into a truly spine tingling production. There are many aspects of fear, and the techniques used to set a chilling moment vary largely. However Amenabar believes that, “leaving something to the imagination is the essence of real horror.” This is achieved in the film ‘The Others’ by using many presentational devices.
During the opening sequence a very peculiar atmosphere is produced, slightly nervy images are shown of people looking distraught; however this contrasts with the soft cheerful melody in the background. This contrast makes the music very eerie, due to the natural feeling of something isn’t right, which builds suspense because you don’t understand what’s wrong. The first image shown in this sequence depicts the creation of the world; the image is very open due to it being the start of life and freedom, the image is also well lit. The other images are very different, there images shown are; two children huddled on a stairway, somebody locking a door, a scared girl pointing into the dark, a dark figure reaching out to a petrified boy, a broken toy angel and a secluded house. These images create unease, the poor lighting mainly focuses on the people making them looked trapped by the unknowing dark, and this is also achieved by the picture of the secluded house also seemingly trapped by the fog. The people also look like their looking at something and coupled with the moving light which seems almost to search the images, gives the impression there’s more in the images then we can see. This and also the title, ‘The Others’, gives us the impression that the people in this film are trapped with other unknown supernatural beings, giving the viewer a feeling of insecurity.
Right from the beginning of the film tension is built, the opening sequence finishes and the music stops. The silence lacks any atmosphere, giving us the impression nothing is going to happen, and then suddenly it jumps to a shot of grace screaming. This shock makes the audience jump, also making them suspect more shocks. However the first three scenes lack these, making the tension increase, and as the pace of the music increases, the audience are on the edge of the seats suspecting the worst. They start to imagine what they believe is going to happen, fearing it. But they are dealt with continuous anti climaxes, but the tension builds as they all know something is going to happen soon, then when the music stops and all seems calm they are dealt with a shock when they least aspect it. The first scene also gives our first look of the outside of the house. Its looks very isolated, and with the additional fog surrounding all, the large house almost seems like a prison. This feeling is completed in scene two when the servants meet the children. Grace starts to lock all the doors, Amenabar also adds to the feeling of imprisonment by reducing the light significantly by making the servants shut the curtains. This creates anxiety and due to the strong character of grace the audience may start to fear for the unmet children. We start to feel anxious to meet the children, Amenabar uses this to create unease. The music stops and unexpectedly an eerie chanting starts, at this point we don’t know what to expect and the camera pans around to behind the servants so we can’t see what the servant can, this creates even more tension.
Furthermore, a major way Amenabar creates tension and suspense is via the use of lighting. The setting of the film is encaged in darkness; this is due to the children being photosensitive. However this darkness creates uncertainty for the characters and the audience inhibiting what they can see happening. This senses of unease increases as the characters become more suspicious of ‘the others’ in their house. The use of light is especially apparent in a scene I will refer to for the purpose of this essay, ‘the bedroom scene’. In this scene both Anne and Nicholas are in bed, suddenly Anne wakes up Nicholas complaining that ‘Victor’ had been messing with the curtains. However during this scene, due to the lighting, only the children’s faces are visible. This makes the audience ponder the question if there really is someone by the curtains. In this scene, Amenabar deliberately makes the scene uncertain allowing it to be interoperated in two different ways; this is particularly evident when Anne is talking to ‘Victor’. This is achieved by the use of camera angles, both the audience and Nicholas can hear a strange voice, but due to the camera showing only the back of Anne, we can’t tell if she is putting it on her not. Additionally when Nicholas believes Anne is just trying to scare him, she tells Victor to touch his cheek. As this is happening, the director uses background music to build up tension. Furthermore the camera zooms into Nicholas face so the audience is unaware of what is happening in the room. Suddenly there are numerous unsettling sounds such as banging footsteps; this combined with the climaxing music increases the tension. As the tension is at a peak silence echoes, and a mysterious hand reaches out for Nicholas’s face. Nicholas erupts into hysteric screams, this stuns the audience.
In addition, sound is also used to create suspense. This is especially effective in the scene I will refer to as the piano scene. The scene starts with grace sat on the stairs, crying in the darkness of a candle. However faint music suddenly becomes audible, so grace goes to investigate. Tension is built for the audience as they can see the apprehension and fear Grace has of what she will find as she creeps down the stairs clutching a shotgun. The music leads her to the piano room, and as she reaches for the door handle the door creaks open and the music suddenly stops. However every door in her house is usually locked, this strange change gives the audience a feeling that there is something wrong. As Grace inspects the room, the director again plays music giving the audience the impression something is there. However as the music dies, the audience are dealt with an anticlimax. Grace leaves the room, and as the camera starts to zoom in on the door it suddenly slams shut while an eerie scream can be heard. Due to the audiences tension being released as grace realises there is nothing in the room, this creates an expected shock. Grace, who fell to the floor, stands up and tries to open the door in fright, however it is now locked. When the summoned house keeper unlocks the door, the room is scanned by the camera, but there is nothing to be seen but a previously closed piano gleaming in the moon light. Grace is physically shocked; this can be seen as she brings her hands to her chest. Another notable effect regarding lighting in this scene is that, at the beginning Grace’s face is extremely orange. This saturated look looks remarkably like old photos, which is relevant as the audience will later find out that she is in fact deceased.
Lastly, these effects are also apparent in the ‘Grave Scene’. In this scene, camera techniques are used very efficiently. The main method used is a technique called crosscutting; this is where the camera shot switches between scenes, it is used to show things happening at the same time. This technique creates suspense because it allows the audience to gather information the characters don’t know. This technique can also increase the urgency of a scene. This is applied to this scene as, Nicholas and Anne go looking for their father. Lost within the fog, often used in horror films to present something being hidden, they find some gravestones. As she reads their inscriptions, her facial expressions clearly show the feeling of shocked and fear. However the scene suddenly cuts to Grace, who also goes through the same emotions as she discovers a picture of her servants, sat dead. The scene then cuts back to the children, as Anne stands speechless the servants miraculously appear. As Anne shouts at Nicholas to run the camera pans onto him. Here the director uses another technique; he switches the focus between the foreground and the background. At first Nicholas can be seen clearly with the servants not in focus in the distance, however these switch so the servants can be seen clearly and Nicholas instead is not in focus. This creates a great amount of suspense, this because this effect gives the impression that the servants are getting considerably closer, where as Nicholas is yet to move. As Anne and Nicholas finally run away, the scene once again cuts to Grace who is distraughtly looking for her children, here the two split scenes merge as the kids run into her. The climaxing music also adds to the tension in the scene.
In conclusion Alejandro Amenabar uses various presentational devices to create suspense during the film. These include the use of lighting, camera angles and sound. However unlike most modern films of this genre special effects aren’t really used, but this does not affect the overall apprehension created during the film. Tension is created in every scene using a wide variety of techniques, therefore I believe that Alejandro Amenabar creates suspense effectively, making ‘The Others’ a great film to watch.