Abusive Relationships Anonymous

         To teach film and literature combinations to a group focusing on abusive relationships, it would seem best to use a "wake up to reality" method. For all the members in the group involved in emotionally abusive relationships, showing the 1961 film The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton, might make them see how it really is. The Innocents is based on the 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James and is full of neglectful caregivers. Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin), the two children, are left in the care of their uncle (Michael Redgrave). Their uncle, not wanting to be bothered with them, pawns the children off on a governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr). The governess, the children's only guidance, is just as neglectful as the uncle. Although she lives there with them, she does not take care of them as she should. When Miles gets kicked out of boarding school, Miss Giddens does not do anything about it. She does not care about his education or what he will do at home. Not only is Miss Giddens neglectful to Miles; she also is frightening to Flora. The governess hallucinates and is paranoid, which is one reason Flora is terrified of her. Miss Giddens also lashes out at her, screaming that she must see the ghost. Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper (Megs Jenkins), is the one that the children must go to for support. After seeing what Miles and Flora go through in the book and movie, maybe some group members might realize how they neglect their own family.

         Another film and literature combination for this group would be Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, turned into the 1973 directed by Joseph Losey. The main character, Nora, is emotionally abused in another way. Her husband, Torvald (David Warner), treats her as if she is a child. Torvald holds the position of father figure over Nora, trying to control her life as much as he can. He tells Nora not to eat macaroons because they rot her teeth, keeps their mailbox locked, and makes her do cute little tricks. Nora is supposed to be the mother figure, but the children are with the nanny all the time, so it is just Torvald and his little Nora.

         I hope after reading and watching A Doll's House, group members might see how unfairly they are treating a spouse or loved one. These two examples are hardly in modern times, but there is still plenty to be learned from them about how to not treat others. All Miles and Flora want is attention from both their uncle and Miss Giddens. Nora just wants to be an equal to Torvald. However, since he has made that impossible, she wants freedom and independence.

         As for the group members in physically abusive relationships, there is no combination better than Tennessee Williams' 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire and the 1951 film, directed by Elia Kazan. Almost the entire movie is Stanley (Marlon Brando) drinking and yelling or beating up on his wife, Stella (Kim Hunter). Time after time, she goes back to him, and he does it again. This combination would be good for the abuser and the victim. The abuser may see how it hurts Stella over and over, and the victim may see that he or she cannot keep going back. If anything, A Streetcar Named Desire would be the one to give someone a wake-up call and make him/her see how things really are.

Jessica Critchlow

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