|spiritual writings | retreat center directory|
"In every major faith tradition and in all stories about life and death, ultimate, soul-satisfying meaning always comes from an awareness of love."
Raymond Teague is the author of Reel
Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
He is an award-winning
His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews
Prepare to be scared and somewhat chilled when seeing The Others. Also prepare to open your mind to some of life's big questions about death:
What happens when we die? Where do we go when we die? Do we continue our experiences but in a different realm? How is life after what we call death affected by feelings of guilt and unforgiveness?
The Others, written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, doesn't have all the answers, but it certainly gets us thinking.
The film stars Nicole Kidman as Grace, a British woman who lives with her two children, Anne and Nicholas, in a haunted house on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands in 1945. From the beginning, there is little doubt that the house is indeed haunted in some way - if nothing else by painful memories. As the deliberately paced story unfolds, viewers discover the alarming depth of the haunting emotions and activities.
As with The Sixth Sense, it's tricky to write about The Others without revealing the climax and giving away the film's surprise elements. Let's just say that Grace and her children, both of whom suffer from a light-sensitive condition that requires sunlight to be kept out of the manor, are dealing with more than meets the physical eyes. The same can be said of three servants who mysteriously show up to work for Grace and are no strangers to the spooky house.
What exactly is going on here? I'm not telling, but we can, delicately, explore the general situation.
A quote from a personal favorite spiritual guide, Emmanuel, points us in the right direction: "Just because you die...does not mean that circumstances change. You carry the fruitful harvest of your life at the moment of your death into a birth that brings you back into similar circumstances."
Emmanuel further says in Emmanuel's Book II: The Choice for Love that "wisdom to perceive beyond illusion" takes away the fear of death. "Then you will know that living and dying are merely frames in a motion picture, a light playing on the wall. There is nothing of any genuine reality in dying or in living except what is allowed to touch the loving truth."
As we strive to touch that "loving truth" at the heart of situations and relationships, perhaps our perceptions of reality -- of so-called "life" and so-called "death" -- can blur. We're certainly in speculative territory here, but perhaps we're not always aware of what our true place in reality is. Are situations real just because they seem real to us? Are our dreams any less real than our so-called waking times, for example? Is there any "real" difference?
The main servant, Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), says to Grace, "Sometimes the world of the dead gets mixed up with the world of the living." She later adds mysteriously, "We must all learn to live together - the living and the dead."
If, in the Big Picture, there's no difference between the two conditions, the need for a more integrated perception of reality makes sense. The film certainly explores the thin line that may exist between living and dying, between being alive and being dead.
And just as The Sixth Sense does, The Others suggests that both the living and the dead often have need of healing and resolution, and that establishing contact with others, in whatever spiritual dimension, can be helpful.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the actions and mental states of certain characters are very much influenced by feelings of guilt and unforgiveness, and that there are important issues being addressed in the haunted house.
Clues abound. For instance, viewers must ask themselves why Grace is so preoccupied with the idea of people being in limbo after death, why she seems so intent on giving her children Bible lessons, and why she comes across as being overprotective of her children.
Grace is coping with much, but she seems somehow tormented and conflicted, especially in her approach to religion. One moment she punishes Anne by having her read the Bible, and the next moment she is telling Nicholas, "The Lord is with you -- there's no reason to be afraid."
Mrs. Mills seems to recognize and perhaps even understand Grace's conflicts. "There are things your mother doesn't want to hear," Mrs. Mills tells the children. "She only believes what she was taught."
Belief and perception are crucial to goings-on. For their part, both Anne and Nicholas say they don't believe everything in the Bible. Anne doesn't believe or trust her mother, and Grace doesn't believe Anne's stories about ghosts in the house. Belief, perception and truth seem as elusive as the nature and meaning of the possible ghosts, and for that matter, of life and death.
Is there a meaning? "Ma'am, there isn't always an answer for everything," Mrs. Mills tells Grace. Still, Grace ponders about what "the Lord in His great mercy" has given her and asks, "What does all of this mean?" Whatever the nature of reality and whatever events have transpired, the film indicates that "real" meaning is found in love. As Emmanuel says, "There is nothing of any genuine reality in dying or in living except what is allowed to touch the loving truth."
In every major faith tradition and in all stories about life and death, ultimate, soul-satisfying meaning always comes from an awareness of love. The Others provides a service by encouraging us to think about reality and to once more focus on the redeeming, restorative value of unconditional love, both in life and death.