Tech Specs: Anamorphic
Widescreen, aspect ratio 1.85:1, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French
Dolby Digital 2.0, English and Spanish subtitles.
Every now and
then you hear critics pine "they don't make 'em like that anymore."
Well, actually, they do. It's just rare that a throwback to classic
storytelling actually works, especially when fused with modern filmmaking
techniques. But Alejandro Amenabar's The Others works quite
well, and if you missed it, you missed one of the best films of 2001.
At the time of
its release it may have gotten more attention for the participation
of Hollywood's most famous split-up couple; Tom Cruise produced the
film for Nicole Kidman to star. It was a good thing he did, because
this is one of Kidman's best roles, in a movie that might not have
been made otherwise.
as Grace, a repressed British mother of two trying to keep her household
together in the post-war years. Grace's husband has not yet returned
from the battlefields; as long as they don't hear of his death, Grace
still has hope. Her children suffer from an intense allergy to light;
the slightest exposure to sunlight will cause severe burns. Consequently,
Grace keeps the house as shut up and dark as her own emotional state.
When the film
opens, her servants have all abruptly disappeared. Three new domestics,
led by Bertha (Fionnula Flanagan), show up as mysteriously as the
others vanished. They claim to have worked at the house long before,
and are happy to resume their old posts. The only problem is that
Grace never actually managed to mail the advertisement for new help.
And now her already spooky-looking pale children have begun visiting
with an otherworldly boy named Victor.
Amenabar (Abre Los Ojos) weaves a stately web of unease. Nothing
overtly startling happens in the first half of the film, just a growing
feeling that something is terribly, terribly wrong. As in some of
the most effective of horror films, Kidman's character refuses to
accept that anything is happening, until, of course, it's too late.
By then, you and she are caught by the clever twists of plot and sheer
filmmaking style of the young Spaniard.
gives the home video release as lush a treatment as possible. Though
it's a two-disc set, the first disc has no extras. Instead, the studio
packs the disc with as much visual and aural information as will fit,
similar to what Columbia has been doing with its "superbit" series.
As a result,
the picture has a rich transfer. Dark amber hues, verging on chiaruscuro,
dominate the interior images, but everything remains crystal clear.
When the film switches to greys, it feels wintry. The audio possesses
a fullness, with great surround effects. Not a note of Amenabar's
excellent score gets lost.
The second disc
contains the extras, though they're surprisingly not much. As has
become requisite, a behind-the-scenes documentary starts things off.
It's longer than usual, though, and definitely complete in its examination
of cast and crew, including a brief appearance from executive producer
Cruise praising Kidman's performance.
Though "an intimate
look at Director Alejandro Amenabar" is included, the best information
about him comes from the documentary, where he actually speaks to
the camera and discusses his approach to filmmaking. The intimate
look merely consists of long videotaped segments of the actual shooting
days, with no commentary or breaks to explain for the camera what
Even the visual
effects are presented with this "here it is, if you want" technique.
A few scenes are broken down with a brief text description, then divided
into the shots necessary to create one smooth effect. While it's cool
to see that The Others has almost as much unreality as a Lucasfilm,
there's no real explanation as to why such composition is necessary.
A nice touch,
though, is the look at the real disease that the children suffer from,
done through the perspective of a family whose youngest daughter has
it. Xeroderma Pigmentosum, or XP, affects fewer than 100 children
in the U.S., but it is potentially deadly. Few victims of it survive
into adulthood. It's fascinating and tragic, but seeing the little
girl deal with it offers up a strange hopefulness. It may seem at
odds with the rest of the material, but if you don't mind a little
education, it's well worth watching.
As is, obviously,
the film itself. You may never watch the second disc again, but The
Others is definitely a movie for the shelf.
Others (currently 25% off at Amazon)