Both Versions Have Their Virtues

†††††††† The 1961 film, The Innocents, based on Henry Jamesís 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, is an excellent thriller, with its mysterious settings and an entertaining cast, along with the sound effects, although in some cases the book is superior.

†††††††† From the beginning we get a good sense of the surroundings and a full view of the outside set; however, the layout of the inside of the house still remains a mystery even after watching the film. I believe that director, Jack Clayton, did this on purpose so that the viewer would see how mysterious the house was by not understanding it, as James had done in the original book. This correlates to the entire plot, where the viewer is often not sure if the ghosts are real or not.

†††††††† To go along with the mysterious sets, Clayton and the scriptwriters made the children in the movie older and more sinister, with their dark eyes and hair than Jamesís original blond children. Indeed the childrenís characters are developed from the very first scenes until their departures from the film. Miles (Martin Stevens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin) do not ever seem that innocent. Clayton had not seemed to want to keep the same air of mystery that James had used in his text. From the beginning few scenes, Flora knows beforehand that her brother will be returning from school early, and Miles makes eerie statements to the governess (Deborah Kerr). In part, this added to the horror aspect that I believe Clayton was trying to portray, but it did fall short of the excitement and wonder that the book leaves readers with. It made me wonder if less sometimes really is more.

†††††††† Another amazing aspect of the film is the use of sound and film techniques. The music box song is a continuous song viewers heard throughout the film. I thought the repetition was successful and eerie, especially when Flora hums the song at the window. In other parts of the movie, Clayton used loud and screaming noises that pierced my ears. This was effective, because I almost felt that I was in the house whenever Flora goes mad and starts screaming. The angles in the movie and the use of darkness and shadows also added to its suspense and horror.

†††††††† I really liked this adaptation of the book. However, for the first time I cannot actually say that I like one version better than the other. I like the mystery of the book and how the unknowns are left up to the reader. On the other hand, I also enjoy the way the director makes the children so much more horrific in the movie. It gives a deeper meaning to the book, and I think both were done well.

Jessica Heacock

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