Acting? Not That I Can See!

     We have read the 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, written by Henry James; we have read the 1951 play, The Innocents, written by William Archibald; and now we see the 1961 film, also entitled The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton. To which direction do I take with an analysis of this film? I am going to look at the acting. Now, I am not a critic, I do not see that many movies, nor do I watch much television. But the actors in this film, to me, were really overacting, and it made it hard for me to enjoy the movie.

     Deborah Kerr played the governess. Far be it for me to judge anyone's acting talents, I understand that she is a classic actress and very "famous," but the way that I saw her in this film was stiff and uncomfortable. Her interactions with the children were unnatural, and it seemed as if she was trying hard to like the children or interact with them. The first time that she met Flora, she acted as if she just loved the little girl, yet she did not know the girl at all. I felt that the time she played the game with the children was also unnatural. I have raised two children, I have played games with them, and there is no stiffness or trying to hard. It just comes naturally. She never seemed to smile, and yet always had a look of long suffering about her. There was a real sense, at least for me, that she seemed scared all the time, actually, from the time that she met the uncle. I do not see how she even got the job, except for the fact that the uncle seemed desperate.

     Now the uncle played by Michael Redgrave, he was something else. He portrayed his arrogance very well. While he only had a small part in the beginning of the film, I think it set the tone for the whole film. The governess seemed to always be wondering what he would say, do or think. Yet, she knew that she was on her own. It was my understanding that the governess had a "crush" on him--how can someone have a "crush" on another when they only met once for a very short period of time? I got the impression that she was more afraid of him than in love with him.

     The children, Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens) although cute, were also seemingly unnatural acting. I almost felt that they were reading their lines as they spoke them. They were too perfect, too nice, too clean, and very unnatural for children. During the film I often watched the children, as they played and as they interacted with each other. I compared them to the way children really do act--no comparison that I saw. What laughing the children did was forced. Children are so much more natural and innocent than these were portrayed to be. Yes, I do understand that these children where brought up differently, alone with only each other and their imaginations. But they were still children and should have been portrayed more naturally, more childlike. I almost felt as if I was watching three-foot tall adults.

     Perhaps my perceptions are wrong; they very well could be. Yet, it would take a lot for me to say that I liked this movie or that I felt the acting was good.

Rory Hughes-Melton

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