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After watching the Sixth Sense for the second time and reading Lavik’s article on it, what struck me as an interesting point of discussion was the relationship between the syuzhet plausibility and fabula plausibility. Specifically, the conclusion that emerges upon retrospective analysis of The Sixth Sense is that a fully plausible syuzhet does not necessarily produce a fully plausible fabula, or rather, the verisimilitude of the plot does not automatically engender a verisimilar storyworld. This is particularly true of supernatural thrillers, of course, but I think it can also be applied to other genres in general.

As Lavik points out, once the major twist is revealed towards the end of the film, all the syuzhet details fit well, retrospectively with the newly-discovered fabula, but what doesn’t really make sense is the new fabula as a whole. First and foremost, “it is very hard indeed to accept that an intelligent child psychologist does not sense that something is wrong when no one—except Cole Sear, the boy who can see and communicate with ghosts—has said one word to him since the shooting” – this is an undeniable and insurmountable (at least from a screenwriting perspective) weakness of the fabula, and although it seems to be the major one, it is by no means the only logical pitfall of Shyamalan’s script.

In my opinion, all these tricky plausibility issues could have largely been avoided if Malcolm in fact knew he was a ghost, but the audience didn’t. True, this would change certain plot developments, as well as his relationship with Cole, but the final twist would still work well and the desired effect would be achieved, I think, with fewer logical stretches. That is why I think that, in comparison, a twist ending such as that of The Usual Suspects is much more efficient, because it is based on the cleverness of a character (Keyser Soze/Kevin Spacey) inside the storyworld, rather than on the custom rules of the storyworld itself (dead people don’t know they’re dead, they only see what they want to see, etc), as it is in The Sixth Sense.

P.S. And if we think of M. Night Shyamalan’s other films, I think we can safely conclude that this syuzhet/fabula plausibility problem is certainly not unique to The Sixth Sense. In fact, I just remembered reading a review of his later movie, Signs, a while ago and being very amused by the reviewer’s sharp observation about the aliens lethal adversity to water: [ and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the artcile on the web:] “Shyamalan expects us to believe that these super intelligent beings would choose to visit the exact planet that is 80% made of the one thing that could kill them?!?”. Touche’.

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