“Just because things aren’t what they seem doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream.”

-the Ataris

         We are yet again bombarded by odd feature films that leave us with nothing but questions. However, The Innocents, directed in 1961 by Jack Clayton and based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, seems quite different. With the other movies have seen this semester, we were left with questions such as "How could a father not love a daughter like Catherine Sloper?" Or "Why didn't Heathcliff and Catherine give into their deepest desires to be together?" The issues left in question are issues that would otherwise define the film and lead us to a conclusion. They are not questions of love, but rather questions of sanity.

         To start off, the obvious query would be whether the ghosts in this story are real or not. Personally, I feel if I had only read the book, there would be a higher possibility of there being no ghosts. When reading, one can use imagination; but what is read can be taken as cold hard fact. One also tends to think realistically. But since the movie does have a lot more pointing in the direction of supporting arguments for a presence of spirits, I should have to say they were real in the movie. People these days tend to believe what they see; if the viewers are intended to see these dark creepy characters lurking around a large mansion in the country, the idea of the house being haunted is more probable. Also one aspect of the movie that really supports this idea is that of the children, Miles (played by Martin Stephens) and Flora (depicted by Pamela Franklin) and their strange comments. For example, the poem Miles recited about his mysterious lord for Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins) and Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) during their dress-up party. At other times the children would ask their governess odd questions for their age. Flora asked their governess if people kept secrets at her home when she was young. When the governess replied by saying it was hard to keep secrets in such a small house, the children looked at each other with pleased and devilish faces. There were a lot of facial expressions the children had that alluded to the idea of their having a "secret." But what the secret is, the audience cannot say for sure; but it is apparent that there is one.

         Another facet intriguing the spectators is whether or not there has been or still is sexual misconduct at Bly. Everyone involved in creating the film did a fantastic job of creating gray areas, as there are some sexual innuendoes, as well as indecent actions, throughout the course of the film in question. One thing that struck me as inappropriate came towards the end when Miss Giddens and Miles were sitting down to tea. Miles held out his hand for Miss Giddens; and, as she went to reciprocate, he pulled his hand away and tapped the jello. I am not exactly sure what that meant, but I have my assumptions, and it seemed very much out of the ordinary for an eight-year-old boy. But mainly, I think the topic of concern would be the "kisses" between Miles and his governess. Even if he was just a normal boy and they were in a normal house setting, it would be very much inappropriate for him to kiss her the way he did. It would also be unrealistic that Miss Giddens would sit there and take it unless she did not enjoy it. That first kiss definitely throws the viewer for a loop, but the second time it happens, the viewer is beyond perplexed. Why on earth would Miss Giddens kiss him the way she did after his death if throughout the whole film she had been trying to save the children from Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and Quint (Peter Wyngrade) and their sex adventures? She seems quite the hypocrite; thus leading me to my next point. Is Miss Giddens off her hinges?

         The governess comes off as a very innocent and loving person in the beginning of the movie. Conversely, as things progress, one can see her sanity slip. One can see it in her eyes especially, as well as in her actions. She became obsessive about keeping the children in her sight at all times, and she all of a sudden took over all the authority in the house as if she has been there for years. One thing that puzzled me was how she handled seeing the ghosts. I think an initial reaction for a person who was seeing people beyond the grave would be that of terror and a need to get out of that house and away from the horror of it all. Yet she remained calm and always collected, as if she has dealt with this problem before. Personally, I would not be able to handle seeing a woman in black with a stone hard gaze in the middle of a pond. Also, going back to my previous point with the possible molestation within the house; to have any sort of physical contact with a young boy of ten or less is definitely a sign of having a few sandwiches short of a picnic basket. Although her intentions may be true, we cannot say for sure there is reason for any action.

         In my opinion I believe there are ghosts, but I also believe Miss Giddens is mentally unstable. I believe anything in question in this movie is probably true. It is a very twisted plot, much like the other plots we have looked at this year. But The Innocents tends to deal with more sensitive and socially unacceptable matters. All I have to say is one would have to be pretty perverse yourself to lay out a story such as this.

Becky Owler

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