No Innocents

         If you have ever been in a crowded store with a whiny screaming child beast, you know that not all children are the sweet innocent children their parents expect them to be. All too often children act out of order and disappoint their parents, teachers, etc. Most of these children KNOW the difference in good and bad behavior, but they have a difficult time acting as they do. This struggle between good and bad behavior is seen in the story of Miles and Flora in Henry James's 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw. Their story is also brought to light in the 1961 film The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton. This story is a prime example of children not acting according to the expectations of others.

         Miles, played by Martin Stephens in The Innocents and Flora, depicted by Pamela Franklin, appear to be innocent at the beginning of the movie. One soon sees that they are eerily portrayed as what I call demon children. They are not necessarily possessed, but they act in the strangest ways. They never just act like normal children in the film or in the novella. They are always portrayed as manipulative children, and not the innocent children the governess in the book, named Miss Giddens in the movie (Deborah Kerr) is expecting.

         If the children were not creepy enough, James also keeps the element of suspense very alive in dealing with the children and the ghosts. He never comes out and says one way or another whether Miles and Flora actually see the ghosts named Quint and Miss Jessel. In the film, however, we see images of the ghosts (Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop) and assume they are real.

         If James was going for the creepy effect, he sure achieved it. The children that appear to be so normal and pure are later seen in true light as creepy.  This story line makes The Innocents, with its really frightening children, a good movie to watch on a stormy night if one wants to be scared!

Amanda Cope

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