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How does the therapist, Malcolm Crowe (played by Bruce Willis), get into the kid's apartment in The Sixth Sense?

Nobody can see him, and the boy (Cole Sear, played by Haley Joel Osment) hasn't come home yet. If he knocks on the door and the mother answers, she would see no one. And he would be introducing himself, but she couldn't hear him, and then she'd just shut the door. They show him with the mother, but there is no interaction between them. He doesn't know he's a ghost, so how could he be there? And it's later that he follows the boy into the church and introduces himself. No way he should be in that apartment.

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    I don't understand. He knocks (which ghosts can apparently do). She opens the door and doesn't see him. She looks around for a bit and then closes the door. He enters the apartment through the open door.
    – Valorum
    Feb 2 at 17:55
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    movies.stackexchange.com/a/120972/100979 is this what you're after?
    – Valorum
    Feb 2 at 18:02

1 Answer 1

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It's implied that ghosts experience life discontinuously but don't notice, in much the same way that the audience sees the scenes of the movie discontinuously but doesn't notice. As Cole (the boy) says, ghosts "only see what they want to see."

Once the twist is revealed, the audience is meant to understand that even though scenes like Malcolm sitting in the room with Cole's mother really happened, we (like him) merely assumed that there was an offscreen interaction leading up to the scene. One interpretation is that the scenes we see with Malcolm are the only ones that "happen" for him, and he just rationalizes or ignores the details of how he got there.

A concrete example of this is the door to the basement in Malcolm's house. A few times in the movie, we see Malcolm pulling on the stuck door in frustration, followed by a cut to him working in his basement office. Before the twist, we're meant to assume that he got the door open and walked down into the basement, but after the twist, it's revealed that the door is blocked by an end table, and there's no way he could have opened it without noticing the table. Not only can ghosts move through physical obstacles, they don't even notice them if they aren't expecting them to be there.

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    To elaborate a little, Shyamalan is taking advantage of the tropes of modern editing, hiding the ghostiness in the cuts, as it were. For example, movies from earlier decades tended to show every element of someone traveling between lcoations, whether it's rooms or cities; fewer movies today routinely show planes landing or airport arrivals, since modern audiences assume travel happened. Shyamalan took advantage of what previous movies had trained audiences to imagine and did so in an extraordinarily effective way. Feb 5 at 16:08
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    Similarly, Malcolm is never shown attending to his biological needs (sleeping, eating, or using the toilet). The audience just assumes that it's the standard cinematic conservation of detail — until the twist, which allows for the interpretation that he doesn't need to do these things because he's a ghost.
    – dan04
    Feb 5 at 18:09
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    The point about the stuck door can't be emphasized enough. He can't open the door, but he ends up in the basement anyway. A discontinuity occurs between points 'A' and 'B' that he doesn't notice. The audience "notices" it but chalks it up to editing... until The Reveal, at which point it's obvious that discontinuities in Malcom's experience are being hidden by (or perhaps, implied by!) the editing. Thus, getting into the apartment is the same; he's just there. It's entirely possible this was an instantaneous transition.
    – Matthew
    Feb 6 at 0:12

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