A Good Ghost Story

         The Innocents is a 1961 horror ghost film directed by Jack Clayton. It is based on the 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. The book does a great job at making the reader wonder whether the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel were imagined or real. From the descriptions in the novella, they could be either imagined by the governess or they could be real. The interpretation of which was left up to the judgment of the reader. I like the way the film made it clear that the ghosts of Peter Quint (Peter Wyngard) and Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) were real but at the same time made the audience wonder about the mental stability of Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr). Miss Giddens sees the ghosts all around the grounds of the mansion and even in the mansion. The children, Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin), along with the housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins) do not see the ghosts that Miss Giddens claims to see. I chose to believe Miss Giddens. She could not have made up stories about seeing the two ghosts because she had given such a perfect description of both of them even though she had never met either before they died. I do not think she lied about seeing the ghosts because she had nothing to gain from lying.

         The horror felt by the audience is through the use of minimal lighting and music in the film. In addition, it was hard to get a feel for the layout of the mansion from watching the film. This made it seem like the mansion was a maze of rooms, hallways, and doors, which added to the psychological factor. One particular scene that gave the film a shock value from just the scenery in the shots was shown when Miss Giddens and the children were playing hide-and-go-seek. Miss Giddens looks as if she is so lost in the mansion and does not know which way to go. The lighting in this scene is minimal because she is only carrying a candle.

        There were some differences between the novella,The Turn of the Screw and film The Innocents. One difference is that, in the novella, the governess does not have a name. I think this gave her character more mystery. In the film, her name is Miss Giddens. The children in the book were much younger. I think it was a good idea to cast older children for the film because they were able to interact with the older adults in a more productive way for the making of the movie.

Nichole Walker