What makes the beginning of the film The Others an effective beginning of a ghost story?

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What makes the beginning of The Others an effective beginning of a ghost story?

Ghost stories have existed for hundreds of years, whether passed on by word of mouth, printed text, or (more recently) in films and movies. The genre has become more popular as technology has advanced, and science has proven “supernatural” happenings to be nothing more than natural phenomena. This has left people with less situations in which they are naturally frightened, and allows authors and film-makers alike to create imaginative situations, to make their audience worry about things unknown...

The title sequence shows drawings in ink, on aging paper. The first drawing is seemingly unrelated to the rest of the film – it is an illustration of the Christian creation story. While this picture is shown, a few lines of Genesis are read as a voice over, with gentle classical music playing in the background. However, this sequence is not as removed from the story as one may think! The main characters are strictly Catholic by religion, and at several points during the film, Grace can be seen insistently telling her children to believe whole-heartedly in the Bible’s teachings. The image is lit by something that resembles candlelight – another point which seems to be irrelevant, but it actually prepares the viewer for the colour of lighting that they will be experiencing throughout the film.

The drawings continue, showing key points in the film, accompanied as ever by the same gentle music. The music has a motif on violin, which is used several times throughout the film, including in the scene where Anne seemingly becomes the old woman. The musical motif is not always played on violin – indeed, in the very scene I specified, it is hummed by Anne. Some of the key points that are shown by the drawings include:

  • A female hand locking a door – This links to the line by Grace: “No door must be opened without the previous one being closed first”. This is a key point, because, later in the film, doors mysteriously begin opening by themselves – which adds to the tension!
  • An old hand, holding a marionette puppet – The relevance of this is, once again, the scene in which Anne seems to become the old woman. Grace is convinced that she saw an old hand and face in the place of her daughter’s, and this is the scene where she begins to realise that her family is not alone in the house.
  • Nicholas screaming, with a shadowed figure standing over him – This could be reminiscent of a few scenes that are either shown or referenced throughout the film. One of which is the scene in which Anne claims that a young boy, called Victor, is in the room with them – when the curtains open themselves seemingly without any tangible figure touching them. However, this image could also be referencing the scene which prefaced the film – in which Grace smothered her children, and shot herself.
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The final drawing shows a large house – which is built in the style of a castle. This is absolutely perfect for a gothic style ghost story! The building looks rather imposing and unmovable, which introduces the fact that people are very small and vulnerable in comparison to it. Camera angles throughout the film vary greatly, depending on the scene. The opening sequence contains the vast majority of these angles which are used during the film, which prepares the audience for the shot types during the rest of the film. The first shot is an establishing shot of the house ...

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