Should she wake up?

The Sixth Sense
written and directed M. Night Shyamalan

“The sixth sense” even (or especially) on the repeated viewing makes a huge impression. When the plot is nearing its resolution we wait for two revelations about the boy’s abilities. By this time we all know that his mom and his friend psychologists would need to face his sixth sense. We know that it’s not going to be easy, as it counters reason and both “recipients” have been drawn as logical and sensible people.

The revelation to his mother I would place among the best scenes ever written for the screen. I think it works so powerfully because the script does not leave time for the mother to buckle over his preposterous claim (“I see dead people.”) The information about the grandma he provides is so emotional, so right and so to the point that she does not have time to reason. The scene races, even though they just sit inside the car. The speed comes from her feeling torment, astonishment, relief and finally closure.

The same emotional ride needs to meet the psychologist. The scene pivots on a technicality (the wedding ring) which triggers the explanation illustrated by flashbacks and much running around by Bruce Willis. It all works, closes the narrative, everybody understands the point, the properly shocked public gets its “narrative satisfaction”.

Yet, I can’t stop thinking that the two revelations are not on the same storytelling level. What Willis is asked to do in this scene does not provide him with the same “playing field” that the mother got, neither offers it to the wife. The limitation comes from the decision that the wife needs to be asleep and turned away. The psychologist follows the boy’s hint to talk to his wife when she is asleep. That’s a great devise, but the way it’s written/directed results in the characters not looking at each other at the most important situation of their emotional life.


.... what if this final confrontation changes into a face to face situation. Another words: they “talk” much as it’s now, then the wife turns around and wakes up. Now both are looking at each other. Yet she, awakened, can’t see him.

It is then, looking right into her face, watching and trying to make sense of her reaction he realizes what’s going on. Then without moving away he can do his closure face to face with her. It would give both plenty to explore as actors. And the flashbacks and the ring are still within the scene.

Yet, they clearly rejected this idea.

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