Great Minds Think Alike

     Debate has always encompassed the 1961 film The Innocents (directed by Jack Clayton), an adaptation of Henry James's 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. The controversy involves the existence of ghosts in the plot and their realism.

     In the film, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), a governess, takes on the care of two children, Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens) at an English country mansion named Bly. Upon her arrival at Bly, the governess experiences episodes of a supernatural air and gradually becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted by two former employees of Bly, Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) and Miss Jessell (Clytie Jessop). Her obsession runs rampant, and she deduces that the spirits' objective is to possess the bodies of Flora and Miles.

     The major question arising from this film and the earlier novella concerns the sanity of the governess. Does she actually see these apparitions, or is she suffering from the excessive job stress? The film alone does not answer this question; however an inspection of Miles compared to another devious child of cinematic fame, does not add some reason to the belief of, not necessarily ghosts, but intense supernatural forces.

     The 1978 film (directed by Don Taylor) Damien: The Omen II also concerns a frightening young man similar to Miles. Damien is the personification of evil. He portrays the Biblical Antichrist; and, although Miles is not considered of that caliber, the behaviorisms of the two boys are quite striking.

     Miles is a polite young man that charms all of those around him, as is Damien. Both boys have a compelling look in their eyes that is chilling. The freshness of innocence in their gaze is clouded with a vile cunning. Miles places a dead pigeon in his bed and throws a turtle through a window. Damien kills people that threaten to expose him. Both are surrounded in death and do not seem to mind. Also, the two boys respond to interrogation in the same manner, as they both become loudly defensive and use language that is not part of their regular speech. While Damien escapes by killing those accosting him, Miles escapes by dying.

     The two characters exhibit similarities that would indicate a guidance by evil. Ghosts could be the cause of Miles' demise, but, if not, supernatural forces of another kind are definitely involved.

Rachel Dixon

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