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For his eerie, scary, The Others, Alejandro Amenábar chose Nicole Kidman, "for the undeniable force of her stare" and Kidman found a great role in a new genre for her – the psychological thriller, and a director she trusted to build true suspense.

On the secluded Isle of Jersey in the final days of World War II, a young woman waits for herbeloved husband to return from the front. Grace (Nicole Kidman) has been raising her twoyoung children alone in a beautiful, cavernous, Victorian mansion, the one place she believes them to be safe.

When three new servants arrive to replace the ones that inexplicably disappeared, startling, supernatural events begin to unfold. Grace's daughter reveals she has been communicating with unexplained apparitions. At first, Grace is reluctant to believe in her children's frightening sightings, but soon, she too begins to sense that intruders are at large. Who are these numinous trespassers ? And what do they want from Grace's family? In order to discover the truth, Grace must abandon all other fears and beliefs and enter the otherworldly heart of the supernatural.

The Others is an exquisitely handsome supernatural thriller with a chilling twist, says Louise Keller in her review. "From concept to execution, Alejandro Amenábar has created a magnificent, haunting film that presents Nicole Kidman in perhaps her best performance to date." It also stars Christopher Eccleston. Eric Sykes, Elaine Cassidy and Fionnula Flanagan co-star as the enigmatic new servants. Newcomers James Bentley and Alakina Mann play the children Grace will do anything to protect.

Exteriors were shot at an English style manor in the Atlantic Coast of Spain at Cantabrie, and interiors on a soundstage in a Madrid studio.

A Mother On a Supernatural Journey
To bring The Others to life, Alejandro Amenábar knew that the key to it all would be the actress who plays Grace, a devout Christian and dedicated young mother stoically raising her children alone amidst the very palpable fear of wartime. Just when Grace thinks she has pulled her children through every known threat, a series of events unfold --so strange and disturbing that she is forced to abandon all her beliefs and fears and enter the realm of the supernatural.

Amenábar felt that to capture Grace's journey he would need a woman capable of embodying a roller-coaster range of emotions, from maternal love to creeping paranoia to shattering shock. He also wanted someone with the classical grace and porcelain beauty of a Golden Age leading lady -a sophisticated, headstrong woman for whom a supernatural encounter would be the last thing expected.

He found all these qualities in Nicole Kidman -and something more. "What really drew me and captured me completely about Nicole was the undeniable force of her stare," says Amenábar. Much of the terror created in the film takes place in Nicole's eyes. They are better than any special effects money can buy."

Kidman was deeply drawn to the mystery inherent in the story and to the torrent of emotions roiling underneath the ghostly events taking place in Grace's house. "I found myself absolutely fascinated and enchanted with Grace's story," she says. "I have never done a supernatural thriller before, which was very intriguing to me, and I knew that with Alejandro Amenábar I would be in the absolute best of hands."

For Kidman, it was Amenábar's unique understanding of how to subtly build fear in audiences that gave her total trust. "It was truly a pleasure to work with such an imaginative and original talent, " she says. "He has an incredible ability to build true suspense, which comes from the heart and mind, from the inside, rather than the outside. He's not afraid to go to the very darkest places, and he gave me the courage to go there with him as Grace slowly begins to accept that reality is not quite what she thinks it is."

Alejandro Amenábar's Anatomy of Fear
This notion of childhood fears becoming real is one that has long fascinated Amenábar: "I wanted to make a film full of long, dark corridors, a tribute to those beings, never unmasked, that stalked the hallways of my boyhood nightmares." Fresh off the success of his acclaimed Spanish film, Open Your Eyes - a sexy, fantastical suspense thriller now adapted into English by Cameron Crowe and re-titled Vanilla Sky, starring Tom Cruise - Amenábar was ready to go even deeper into the mystery thriller genre. He began thinking about the very nature and origins of terror and suspense.

"My childhood was beset by fears -fear of the dark, fear of half-open doors, fear of closets, and generally speaking, fear of anything that could conceal someone or 'something,"' he recalls. "Thus, it is no surprise that I should become an avid devotee of the occult film. I often wonder," he continues, "why we take so much pleasure in fear? And in part I believe it's because the experience is so intense, and yet we know that we are still safe on the other side of the screen. The more that safety is in question, the scarier the film."

Amenábar knew from the beginning that the unrelenting spell of The Others could only be created through a deep emphasis on mood and psychology, not superficial special effects. "I think it is dangerously easy in this type of film to go overboard with special effects and turn the desired shivers into revulsion, " he notes. "For me, leaving something to the imagination is the essence of real horror. It's about the anxieties, the obsessions, the paranoia that lie latent in our consciousness. Wake these primal feelings up and you will transport the spectator back to the darkest corners of childhood fear . . .back to that spine-tingling shiver that can only be described as terribly wonderful."

Published November 8, 2001

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Alejandro Amenábar

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