The Darker Side of Innocence

        The Innocents is a 1961 film, directed by Jack Clayton, based on the 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is to be the new governess and watch over two children, Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin), in a country mansion. The tone since the beginning when the governess arrives at the house can best be described as ominous.

        The country setting and seclusion of the house made this story unique. We are teased at first, and at times Miss Giddens tries to ignore the evil presence, but with the children there is no way to ignore it. The ghosts or apparitions, Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) and Miss Jessell (Clytie Jessop), over time appear to manifest themselves and continue to almost drive Miss Giddens mad. She is convinced that the evil spirits possess the children; however, when, looked at from the children’s point of view it is another story.

        Until the very end of the story Miss Giddens is convinced that the children are possessed and plotting against her and the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (Meg Jenkins) and the maids in the house. Eventually the madness that has enveloped Miss Giddens affects another, Miles. In the end we see Miles die, or taken finally from the spirit of Quint. The audience watches Miss Giddens go from a normal person telling herself it is all in her head, to a crazed almost obsessed person. We see this develop over the course of the film, Miss Giddens seems to come into the estate feeling uneasy, and this grows throughout the film. Eventually she drives Flora away and kills Miles because of her obsession of pursuing the ghosts and is determined that the children are involved. Her self-destruction leads to the demise of Miles possibly brought on by her perceived obsession with the ghosts’ possession Giddens herself or the fact that it was potentially all in her head.

        The Innocents to me is better described as ominous than scary, but the creepy factor lingers throughout the entire film, and in the end one is certainly left with an uneasy feeling; and a sense of uncertainty that only adds to the unsettling end.

Bryan Thesing

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