Evil Influence

     The Turn of the Screw, 1898, by Henry James, was a different piece of work. It was hard for me to get into; the 1961 movie, The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton, and the 1950 play, by William Archibald, on which the film was based, did not help much. I found all the versions hard to delve into. I did not find much difference in any of the renderings. I was a little mystified as to the control of the spirits over the children. I do not get into subtleties very well. I suppose I enjoy direct and to-the-point drama. Say what you mean, and do not make me guess because I do not enjoy mysteries. Of course, I do not care for ghost stories of any sort, so I could not get into this one. I believe this was more of an evil spirit story than a spook-in-the-dark theme.

     I know children are very impressionable and easily influenced, but I objected to the amount of influence that these spirits had over the children. I just could not tolerate that these two people had so much influence, and it was so evil, vulgar, and vile. I understood that the children came to trust Quint and Miss Jessel because the adults had indulged them while they were alive; but it bothered me that the children had fallen under the evil spirits' influence. I could not understand how the other servants, especially the housekeeper, had allowed this evil pair to share such intimate things with the children. Children are often precocious, but this influence crossed the line many times over. If the children had made privy to sexual happenings, that is just too atrocious.

     The movie gave me a little better understanding of how the new governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) picked up on the influence. It is often easier for me when I can see things rather than have to imagine them. Visualization comes easier for me when I get a picture, and I suppose that is the readon I enjoy movies more than novels. Movies are easier for me to get a grasp on the plays because they can add more visual effects, and that is always helpful in story lines, such as those involving ghosts or evil spirits.

     The novella, the play, and the movie were all fairly close in similarities. It was important that all three works made the spirits visible to the governess, or their effect could not have been as powerful. I think it was necessary for her to see them in order to really feel their evil influence. I liked the ending in all three versions because it gave us the final effect of the evil at its most believable state. The main character, the governess, was powerless against that evil; and it left me wondering what would happen to her.

Glenda F. Riley

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