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Being prompted by Professor Mittell to engage with the play between syuzhet and style, I stared at and scruntized the screen and discovered one thing: RED is everywhere in The Sixth Sense.  Bordwell speaks at length to the relationship between syuzhet and style, stating that “Film technique is customarily used to perform syuzhet tasks – providing information, cueing hypotheses, and so forth.” One prominent technique oft utilized by Shyamalan in all of his movies, especially The Sixth Sense,  is COLOR. Having seen the movie beforehand numerous times, I was familiar with the stylized use of the color RED. So throughout the screening tonight, I marked down every instance where the color red appeared. Also, by the color red, I mean THAT specific color red, indicating a conscious stylistic choice by Shyamalan.

52 scenes contained the color RED.

Here are prominent uses:

Funeral Sequence: Wife in Red Dress, Red flowers, Red Lipstick. The decorative box containing the cassette tape included a red adornment. In Mischa Barton’s bedroom, there is a starkly red “It’s never fun to be sick,” ‘get well’ card.

Cole’s Red Tent (equipped with a red flannel blanket and the Jesus figureine draped in a red shall)

Cole’s Mother often has red fingernail polish.

At the play sequence, the gem in Excalibur is red.

The red doorknob at Malcolm’s house; his wife is draped in a red.

The sequence with the dead bicycle rider: her bike helmet is red.

When Malcolm first enters the church after Cole, the church doors are red.

Malcolm’s wife wears red throughout most of the movie (except the sequence in which Malcolm actually dies).

When Malcolm and Cole are walking towards the beginning of the film, there is a red stop sign as well as a group of youth baseball players wearing…you guessed it…red caps.

The red balloon floating up the spiral staircase at the birthday party.

The Thermostat needle is red.

A faded red hospital instrument above Cole’s bed.

Cole’s mother finds Cole’s ‘upset words’ written in red ink.

Malcolm’s wife anti-depressants are red pills.

My list filled up two college-ruled sheets of paper front and back. The question I was forced to ask myself is: why so much red? I think that the obvious explanation is that the color red appears prominently when ghosts are present: particularly with Cole’s tent, the red door knob, the balloon, and Cole’s sweater. Upon first watching the film, this would become very apparent after a while, almost one of the ways in which Shyamalan teaches the audience how to watch the movie. However, watching the movie the second time, red is posited as a clue to Malcolm actually being dead. In a majority of the scenes with Malcolm and Cole, there is either a bright red or a shade of red present, oftentimes a subtle shade of red, which complements the hidden ‘double’ fabula that the article mentioned. When I watched the film this time, I noticed how many times red appears whenever Malcolm is around, almost throwing it in your face that he is actually a ghost. This is just one of the ways in which Shyamalan hides the ‘twist’ from the audience via cooperation between the syuzhet and the style.

Also, this color red allows for the audience (and me included) to make an hypothesis and test that hypothesis in accordance with Bordwell’s notion of the ‘spectator.’ Hypothesis: When the color red appears, a ghost will show up. Then, you could test that theory (multiple times even), and as an active viewer, we can figure out the connection.

Again, there are many examples of the connection between syzuhet and style. Hopefully we’ll chat about more tomorrow in class.

One Response to “Color Motif and the Sixth Sense”

  1. […] Home Oct3rd Style and Sjuzhet in The Sixth Sense I’d like to continue the discussion of style from Scott’s post: […]

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