‘The Others’ is a 2001 Gothic Horror movie, written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar, it is regarded as one of the best horror movies ever made — justifiably so.
If you trust it enough, over the years science has answered many questions about our existence, science has even provided an explanation with a certain degree of surety about our origin. But one question still remains debatable: Where do we go after life? Well, if you are one of those people who believe in everything a science textbook says–then there is nothing after life, it’s just an endless string of darkness. But if you are ready to hear some other opinions on this matter–then things get a lot more interesting, many cultures claim that you are reborn as another human being after death, or as an animal if you didn’t do enough good deeds in your lifetime. Then there’s the traditional religious concept of Hell (the place for the bad) and Heaven (the place for the good)–where you are sent accordingly after death. But between all these possible explanations, the one that fascinates me the most is the concept of Souls and Spirits — you don’t go anywhere after death, you leave your body, but your soul is tied to this earth forever. It doesn’t matter which of these explanations you believe in, but life after death will always be a mystery to our primitive existence.
Finding the answers to these questions isn’t the motive of this article and neither am I intellectually capable of doing so, I’m only setting you up a little. As ‘The Others’ requires a little more than your complete attention to fully grab it because it tries to explain things which are beyond its scope and couldn’t possibly be explained in 104 minutes. ‘The Others’ came out in 2001, a year that is more or less remembered as the year when ‘Lord of the Ring’ started taking over the world, but somewhere a relatively unknown director by the name of Alejandro Amenábar had made a horror masterpiece–which people didn’t really appreciate until much later. It stars Nicole Kidman as Grace, a mother of two kids named Anne(daughter) and Nicholas(son), who are living in this huge mansion–typical of all the palaces we see in Gothic style horror movies. It takes place around 1945— just after the end of world war 2. This is one of those quiet, isolated movies where the locations feel like a character in itself, it doesn’t speak but has a lot of stories to tell.
Before I get to the ending of ‘The Others’, I’m going to break down the entire plot of this movie. And it is very obvious to say that this article contains heavy spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I would suggest you go and watch this movie first, and then come back later.
The Three Servants
The movie begins with Grace screaming and waking up from a terrible nightmare. With the first shot of this incredibly large mansion, you can immediately sense isolation and loneliness. Three servants named Bertha Mills, Lydia and Mr. Edmund Tuttle show up at the house and grace think that they have come in response to an advertisement that she gave in the newspaper regarding a vacancy for servants. Bertha is a very elderly woman and does most of the talking on the servant’s behalf, Mr. Tuttle is the Gardner and Lydia is a mute. Grace quickly explains the three rules of the house. No phones or radio as it sets off her migraine, the previous door has to be locked before a new one is opened and all the windows have to be covered with curtains all the time.
Grace then orders them to close all the curtains as she goes inside to get the kids, this is one of my favorite scenes in this entire film. The kids come out looking very pale and yellow in very dim light. Grace then explains that the kids are extremely photosensitive and if they are exposed to direct sunlight they will possibly die within a few minutes. Her husband went to fight in the war, and she hasn’t heard from him in almost a year. This opening scene instantly made this movie intense and dark as we now know that the kids cannot go outside and Grace has to be there to take care of them all the time So, the family is basically trapped in this isolated location and grace doesn’t even know that her husband is alive or not.
Later Grace confronts Bertha about the fact that the letter she sent for the advertisement hasn’t even been picked up by the postman, Bertha explains that they used to work here before and just came about, looking for work.
“The Curious case of Victor.”
Grace is a very religious lady, and she wants her children to believe, that if they don’t trust in Jesus, they will be going to Limbo (Hell for kids) afterlife, Anne in this movie often talks about a boy named Victor. She tells her mother about him, but grace immediately shuts her down and doesn’t want to hear any of it. For the most of the opening sequence, it seems like Grace knows that something is wrong in her house, but she is not ready to accept it. She doesn’t think that ghosts and other things exist; because she has full faith in her lord and she believe that Christ would never allow such a thing. But Anne is very sure and says that she even talks to this boy named Victor.
Book of the Dead
Grace now sense that there is someone else in her house, After a heart-wrenching sequence in the storage room, she is sure that there is an intruder in her home. She orders all the servants to search every corner of the house, as she wants this intruder to be found. Anne shows a drawing she has made of the people she has seen in this house beside her family and the servants; there is a mother, a father, their son, Victor and the old lady. She also remembers how many times she has seen each of them; she has seen the old lady the most. Upon searching the house, Grace comes across a strange album of photos, which had pictures of sleeping people in them. She questions Bertha if she knows anything about those sleeping people, Bertha tells her that these people are not sleeping, they are dead, and in old times people used to believe that keeping the picture of the dead will help them keep their souls alive with themselves.
Daddy’s Home.. But is He Really?
In another suspenseful, scary sequence involving a piano, Grace is now entirely convinced that the house is haunted and she wants to go and get a priest so that he can bless the house. She leaves the house; it is foggy outside. She can barely see a thing, and in a very cinematic moment she sees her husband, Charles, appearing out of the fog, it seems like he has returned from the war. She hugs him and takes him home, but he doesn’t seem to be alright, instead of being happy by seeing his family after a long time, he is showing remorse, some sort of regret, like he is lost, in himself or somewhere in the war. He is not talking much, neither is he coming out of his room. It seems like the war has taken its toll on the man and he is not the same as the man who left to fight the Germans. He has changed, but then again, war changes everyone, no one has ever wholly returned from war. Even if you don’t get physically injured, the death and destruction always consume a significant part of you, and you return home questioning whether killing all those men was worth it or not, trying to convince yourself that you fought for the good.
In another sequence, Grace sees the old lady wearing her girls dress and talking in her voice; it seems like the old lady is trying to communicate with her. Grace strangles, who she is seeing as the old lady, but it is actually Anne, her daughter. Anne now starts fearing her mother as she thinks that her mother is trying to kill her.
Throughout this movie, the kids often make references to ‘That’ day, A day when supposedly Grace went mad. We hear the kids talking about it in the opening sequence to Bertha, But grace tells Bertha that kids often make up stories and she shouldn’t believe everything that Anne is telling her. It seems both the kids remember that day, but Nicolas is too scared to talk about it. Charles also confronts Grace and ask her what happened that day, Grace is in denial of everything and says she will never do anything to hurt her kids.
Charles looks like a broken man, he does not want to stay and says he wants to go back to war. Imagine the mental condition of a man who has just returned to his family after a very long time and now wants to go away again. He feels incomplete at home; it almost feels like he’s still at war and hasn’t returned or perhaps only his body has, but his soul is still out there somewhere. After a very emotional confrontation with Grace, the very next day, he’s gone.
What’s Wrong With the Servants?
When the kids wake up the next day, they start shouting immediately as the curtains in their room are gone. Grace rushes to the kids, cover them with a blanket and rushes to find a dark place in the house. But as she goes outside, she discovers that all the curtains are gone. She finally manages to find a dark place and start to question the servants about the missing curtains. She now feels like The servants are trying to kill her kids, she extradites them at gunpoint and tells them to go away.
Throughout this movie, it often feels like the servants knew something that grace doesn’t, that they understand things happening in the house and are hiding something. We see them covering a gravestone; we see Bertha telling Anne that she trusts her and there are a lot of surprises coming. Even when Grace extradites them, we see an annoyed Bertha tell Mr. Tuttle, that it is time to uncover the gravestones.
It seems like the director was building up the entire movie to get to this very point. Now that he has confused his audiences enough, with the servants, with Victor and the old lady, with Charles, with what happened ‘that’ day when Grace went mad, he now decides to let loose and start uncovering everything. This very scene when Grace vanishes the servants out of the house is the starting of the Climax, and you may wanna prepare yourself for this ending.
Now that the Servants are out of the house and Grace is searching for the Curtains. Both Children, Anne and Nicholas sneaks out at night to find their dad, but they discover a small graveyard and realizes that these are the servant graves as they see Bertha Mills names inscribed in one of them revealing the fact that she had died almost 50 years ago; at this same point inside the house Grace finds a tore picture from the book of the dead, and the three servants are lying in the picture, with their eyes closed just like the other people from the book. These two scenes occur simultaneously and are a piece of very smart writing as Grace, and the Kids realize, from entirely two different sources, that the Servants are dead.Now we see them all scared as the Servant are walking towards them, Grace fires a couple of shots at the Servants, but that didn’t cause them any damage. Grace runs inside and tells the kids to hide in a room upstairs, Bertha tells grace that all three of them have been dead for almost 50 years ago, and the living and the dead has to learn to live together.
The old lady finds the kids, and they scream very loud, upon hearing their screams; Grace runs upstairs only to find a man, a woman, the old lady and another man sitting across a round table. The old lady is acting like an intermediate and asking questions to Anne about what happened ‘that’ day when her mother went mad, the old lady is scribbling down the answers, and another man is translating them. Anne tells the old lady that her mother had strangled both of them with a pillow that day. Get it? The kids are dead, have been for the entire film. The old lady again asks them, is that how you died? Now all three of them starts shouting ‘We are not dead.’ Grace moves towards them and starts shaking the table and tears all the paper, but the four people in the room don’t see Grace, they only see the papers been torn and the table been shaken. This clearly explains that Grace is dead too and the only people alive in this movie are the people who Anne made a drawing of, the mother, the father, the boy victor and the old woman and also the man who was translating. The people who were being referred to as ‘Intruders’ in the movie are the once who are alive and living in this house. So ‘The Others’ is not a horror movie about people being haunted by the ghost; it is actually a horror movie about ghost being haunted by the people.
Grace finally realized that she had killed both of her children and shot herself to death in a moment of pure rage. She finally admits something which has been haunting her throughout the movie. The kids eventually realize that they are not photosensitive anymore, and they can go out in the sun whenever they wish too. The ‘Intruders’ upon realizing that their house is indeed haunted decides to leave.
You can end up with a number of the question once you are finished watching this film, I’ve tried to address some of them down below.
How can Grace not know that she and her kids are dead?
Grace was a very religious lady; she does not believe in life after death, according to her once you are dead, you go to a special place and live happily after that. At the beginning of the movie she wakes up from what she thinks is a nightmare, I think the nightmare was about her killing the kids, and then shooting herself to death. Well, now we know that it wasn’t a nightmare, that really happened, she just wasn’t ready to accept it or perhaps she thought that God has given her another chance at life and forgiven her for her sins.
Were the kids actually Photosensitive?
Yes, I believe they were, right until they died but after that, they weren’t anymore, but they possibly couldn’t have known this until they were, in fact, exposed to direct sunlight.
Why was Lydia Mute?
When Grace asked Bertha about Lydia’s condition, Bertha told her that she just stopped talking one day. Now you don’t just stop talking like that. I think the moment Lydia realized that she had died, that moment was too shocking and traumatic for her to handle and she couldn’t deal with the pain hence she stopped talking or maybe lost her voice because of it.
Why did Grace saw the old lady speaking in the voice of her daughter?
Now we know that the old lady was, in fact, an exorcist or an intermediate who was called into the house to communicate with the dead, i.e., Grace and her kids. So The Old lady was seeking answers to her question through Anne. That is the reason why at the end we see Anne answering questions of The Old lady which she was scribbling down for the translator to read.
What was wrong Charles?
The answer to this question is Everything. He was dead, assumedly he died in the war, but his spirit returned, searching for his family. And when he saw that his family was dead too, and his wife had killed his childrens, he couldn’t bear the pain and just left. He was too broken to watch his young kids after they have died at such a young age.
This movie came out after ‘The Sixth Sense,’ so M. Night Shyamalan phenomenon had occurred by then, and twisted endings like this were a reality. But still, you don’t see it coming upon first viewing, and when you do get to the end of this film, and you look back to make sense of all this, all the dots just start connecting by themselves. I care deeply about horror movies, this is my favorite genre, and I love when a director gets it absolutely right. See it’s not about how many jumps scares a horror movie has—or—how terrifying the monsters were. It’s about real human emotions of pain, anger, regret, and sorrow been taken to their ultimate test. It’s that feeling of ‘something’s not right,’ and you just know it deep in your hearts and it will never be. That my friends, is what real horror means.
Alejandro Amenábar wrote a fantastic script and directed it to perfection. The location feels real and isolated, immediately getting you invested in the film. All the actors were in fine form, and I don’t even have to tell you that Nicole Kidman was fantastic in this movie. In the end, ‘The Others’ is among the best horror movie ever made, and it will surely be admired by many generations to come.