Emotions Through a Lens

         Cinematographer Freddie Francis has managed to instill all necessary emotional elements into the 1961 film The Innocents through his magnificent camera-work. Directed by Jack Clayton, The Innocents, based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, gives a creepy, eerie feeling in nearly each and every scene viewed; this sort of feeling arises from Francis' clever and effective use of close-up shots.

         There are a number of close-up shots throughout the film, each of which provokes a chilling, spine-tingling feeling. Furthermore, it is the smooth transition and zooming in of these shots that make them so effective. One such instance occurs when Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is hiding behind the curtain from the children, and the ghost of Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) glides closer in front of the window behind her. As Quint moves closer to the window, the camera zooms into a close-up of Miss Giddens' face, half of which can be seen and half of which is covered by the curtain, until she witnesses Quint. The effectiveness from a shot such as this, in my opinion, comes from the expression one is allowed to see so vividly in the character's eyes. In this scene, Miss Giddens appears so shocked and terrified; the viewer can almost feel the same sort of chill that the characters appear to feel in these scenes, thanks to Francis' use of the camera.

         Perhaps another one of my favorite scenes in the movie occurs when the shot starts out as a close-up of Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins) as she tells the story of Quint's death. This particular scene was so intriguing to me because of the way Francis switches the close-up from Mrs. Grose to a close-up shot of Miss Giddens. The camera seems to have moved so smoothly away from Mrs. Grose, one does not even realize she is now only in the background, but her feeling of fear and intensity remains for the viewer.

         Frame by frame, shot by shot, The Innocents is an intriguing piece of work. Overall, the cinematography of the film is not only effective, but also shows an admirable talent in Freddie Francis. Furthermore, it is these close-up shots that give this movie the feelings of fear, mystery, sadness, and the occasional joy it needs to be considered an artful and remarkable piece of work.

Alexis Dixon

Table of Contents