How often do we see and yet not truly see? If the Sixth Sense and its twist ending are any indication it occurs more often than we think. Even in its final reveal, there’s a meaning most people still miss.
Here’s how it works.
After Dr. Malcolm Crowe is shot by a former child patient, He spends the rest of the film trying to redeem himself by helping the young Cole Sear who shows many of the symptoms that plagued his former patient.
Cole is at first wary of Malcolm and Malcolm uncertain of himself. But over the course of the film, Malcolm builds a relationship with Cole until at last, halfway through the film, Cole confesses that he’s afraid because he can see dead people.
Malcolm eventually comes to believe Cole and in the end teaches him to see this ability not as a curse but a gift.
The real bombshell, however, occurs in the closing scene of the film when Malcolm, along with the audience, realizes that he’s one of the dead who sought his patients help. Cole wasn’t just speaking TO Malcolm, he’s talking ABOUT Malcolm. And in this eye-opening moment, the film quickly recaps a number of scenes in which we now see how each was wrongly perceived.
Although it appeared Malcolm had spoken to others in the film, in reality no one has spoken to him since his shooting except the young boy. M. Night has left scenes ambiguous, allowing us to mistakenly grasp their significance until the film’s end.
The Sixth Sense links the symbolism of blindness and sight, darkness and light with death and life. For instance, We remember how the film ends but forget how it begins with a slow turning on of a light bulb, a symbol of the revelation to come. And it’s only when Malcolm sees and or realizes he’s dead that he’s ushered into the light – the afterlife.
But it’s Cole who has the gift of sight and the film turns on what he can see. A sight which is in part symbolized by the large glasses he wears when Malcolm first meets him. But his name Cole Sear is just as symbolic. Sear may be spelled S.e.a.r. but it’s also pronounced Seer. And it’s no coincidence that’s it’s Malcolm he sees. Col is in the middle of Malcolm’s name. And pronounced with a soft C, we can see that it too is a play on the words. Cole Sear is a Soul Seer. He see’s Malcolm’s Soul, his inward being.
The Sixth Sense is about seeing beyond outward appearances to the reality that lies beyond. Which leads us to the twist most people still miss. Who else doesn’t see that Malcolm is dead. We, the audience. We only see what we want to see. And in our blindness, we’re just as dead as Malcolm.
Before Christopher Nolan was known for making meta-cinematic movies, like inception, where the movie is about movies and the hidden messages filmmakers speak through them. M night gave us this movie, the Sixth Sense, in which he showed the disparity that often exists between the surface of a film and its true significance.
Here the peeling back of a facade opens a father’s eyes to his own heartbreaking reality and at the same time graciously raises his other daughter from that same death.
The question is, what have we missed?