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It struck me as rather strange to see Lavik categorizing The Sixth Sense as a detective film, because I really don’t think that this film – twist ending or no twist ending – satisfies the requirements of the detective genre. Yes, it involves a mystery, but that doesn’t seem enough to include it in this category. I happened to write my research essay on the detective film genre for my American Film Genres class with Prof. Grindon – an essay that was dependent on Bordwell’s discussion of the detective film in his Narration in the Fiction Film – and I remember that the scholarly categorization of detective films depended on two conditions: for a movie to be classified as a detective film, 1. its plot had to follow an investigation, and 2. its protagonist must function as a detective. While it is true that the protagonist need not necessarily be a detective by profession – so either a private eye or a police detective – I still do not think that Malcolm, in his role as a child psychologist, comes close enough to fulfilling the function of a detective in this film. Moreover, the plot does not really center on an investigation, but rather on the relationship between Malcolm and Cole, which, although it does have certain mysterious aspects, has nothing to do with the structure of a traditional or non-traditional whodunit.

Furthermore, if we are to apply the rule of “fair play” – stipulating that the syuzhet must contain enough information for the viewer to be able to piece together the information by himself, in parallel to the sleuth protagonist – then it means that The Sixth Sense is not a very successful film, because the solution to the “mystery” is so outlandish that I don’t think any viewer would have been able to come up with it independently. And I don’t think that it can be denied that The Sixth Sense was indeed a successful movie; I can only contend that it is not a successful detective film, and therefore I don’t think that including it in this category is the best taxonomical choice.

Also, from a screenwriting perspective – I cannot escape the legacy of Don Mitchell’s screenwriting workshops! – I tend to resist the final-montage-ties-it-all-together strategy, and I do think it is quite a “cheap” storytelling device, but it makes me wonder if it is not in fact necessary for such a complex and unusual premise like that of The Sixth Sense. Lavik frames the retrospective piecing together of events from a temporal point of view, i.e. how much time has passed between the dissemination of the clues and the revelation of the solution, and I think that is a good approach. That is to say, in a 2-hour movie, a montage “reminding” the spectator of the relevant information that has already been revealed and that is necessary in order to understand the solution might seem contrived and therefore “cheap”, but it might also be extremely necessary, and might actually make the difference between the audience understanding the fabula… or not.

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