Black and White, Ghost and Fright

     As a child I was scared of the dark. As an adult, I still am fearful at times when there is complete darkness around. When I was younger though, the darkness down the hallway in my house and in my room before bedtime was the worst. I would walk down the hallway with one hand on the wall searching for the light switch and the other out in front balled in a fist for protection. Right before I made my jump for the bed I had to hit the lights off. An eerie feeling would run throughout as I dashed through the darkness for my bed. I always felt as if someone would come up from behind and grab me. In bed, I threw the covers over my head, hoping whatever monster was in the room would not notice me. Slowly, I would lift the covers off when the heat from my breath was too intense. Shortly after I would fade into sleep, awake in the morning and forget the dreadful experience of the night before.

     As I watched the 1961 movie The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and based on Henry James's 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, all of these childhood memories rushed back at once. Watching as the governess (Deborah Kerr) put the children (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin) to bed, I found myself transformed into the children. The way the black-and-white film captured mysterious, black areas in the background served to its advantage. The hallway scenes kept me intently watching and wondering when a ghost would pop out. The black- and-white film therefore is a definite positive for this film.

     With the aid of candles in the bedrooms, these eerie, black spaces were also included. These areas and spaces seemed to surround the characters in such a way that exemplified a surrounding of a kind of doom. The ghosts might have been nowhere near, but it seemed as if they were still lurking in this darkness that provoked an old and awkward memory in myself. The concept of the governess being the only one to see the ghosts provoked memories of times past when I had thought there was something lurking in the shadows. James and Clayton draw on these fears of what a blur across the lake might be. The governess is not in a minority by imagining as object into an actual shape.

     The human eye is only so powerful, and many times we mistake things for what the truly are. This is sure to have happened to many of us. The preciseness of this novella and movie come through drawing on those same fears, prompting them to resurface.

Brandon Lucas

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