WISH THE STARS
The story started a thousand years ago, but it was all over in just seven days. A long, long time back, none of the things we see now -- the sun, moon, stars, earth, animal, plants -- existed. Only God existed. And so only He could have made them. And He did," narrates Grace (Nicole Kidman) in the opening credits of The Others.
On the contrary. Because the subtlety of anticipated terror is what makes The Others chilling.
Set during World War II, in the remote town of Jersey in the British Channel Islands, lies a bizarre and spookily constructed mansion where Grace and her two children, Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) live, awaiting the return of her long gone husband Charles from the war.
Quite bafflingly, their servants disappear, without collecting their wages. Grace places an advertisement in the newspaper for replacements. One morning, she opens the door to find an old man (Eric Sykes) and woman (Fionnula Flanagan), and a mute young girl (Elaine Cassidy), looking for employment.
Here, the viewer is introduced into the eerily structured house. There are innumerable passages, doors and rooms. And rules. No door must be opened before locking the previous one that was opened.
The servants are cautioned about the children's condition -- they are allergic to natural light.
At times obsessively meticulous and, at others, benevolently warm, Grace is as unpredictable as the weather outside her mansion. A staunch Catholic, Grace has numerous Bible-reading sessions with her children. Although the kids can't venture out, they seem quite content in their mysterious world of darkness.
Anne, a stubborn, adventurous, clever young lady, is quite a task for her Mummy -- constantly making up stories about ghosts, insisting there is a boy named Victor in their house, much to frightened kid brother Nicholas' dismay.
Also, every time Anne and Nicholas are reprimanded, they keep referring to a 'certain day' when their Mummy went crazy.
Soon, Grace comes across photographs of the dead, whispers that haunt and the sounds of piano being played. Bertha Mills (Flanagan) insinuates that there are intruders.
Who are the intruders?
The suspense is built up till the last scene. And that is what, perhaps, makes The Others nothing short of brilliant.
Written, directed and composed by 29-year-old Alejandro Amenábar, The Others is devoid of the mandatory special effects, high-pitched violins and grotesque faces. Amenábar chooses to make chilling use of silence and darkness. Which Nicole Kidman employs to utmost effect.
And the result is mind-blowing.
Another aspect of the film is its smooth and dim-lit camerawork by Javier Aqirresarobe, which highlights just the protagonist, making you feel that someone might just pop up from behind.
Fionnula Flanagan, Eric Sykes and Elaine Cassidy are compelling. Especially the Irish Flanagan, who walks away with a meaty part. She has a hawklike quality about her face, which leaves her character questionable, even after the film is over.
Alakina Mann and James Bentley, as Grace's children, are complete naturals. Seemingly oblivious to the camera, their bantering and conversations come across as casual and realistic.
But the true soul (pun unintended) of this film is Nicole Kidman. She breathes fire through her eyes. Her Grace is a highly complex and unpredictable creature, giving an air of ice, eccentricity, insecurity, maternal love, and control to her role.
Certainly, one of the best performances coming from this fine actress after Moulin Rouge. Incidentally, ex-husband Tom Cruise happens to be one of the executive producers of the film.
The Others proves that horror lies in the psyche, not in the eyes. This must-see film haunts you long after you've watched it, simply because it convinces you that life and death can co-exist.
Kidman's Chamma chamma makes a song and dance!