Directed by Jack Clayton, The Innocents (1961) seems revolutionary for its time concerning special effects, and maintains an eerie feeling from the very start until the film's conclusion. This thriller, based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, also contains a huge dose of symbolism, found in everything from the costumes and the set to the foreshadowing expressions sweeping across each actor's face.
Deborah Kerr in the lead role of Miss Giddens at first seemed an odd choice, because Kerr has not delivered a performance even similar to this before. But, from the opening credits to the ending ones, Kerr keeps the audience engrossed on the edge of their seats with anxiousness and anticipation.
Two hands clasped together shaking is the opening image while the credits roll at the film's start; this sets the eerie tone for the entire movie and is highly engaging. Kerr takes a lovely innocent ride up to the (haunted) house at the film's opening; it showcases beautiful landscaping and nature; and, even though the film is in black and white, it is still easy to imagine all of the brilliant colors onscreen. The first time Miss Giddens meets her new charge Flora (Pamela Franklin), the young girl is draped in a white dress, which makes her look very angelic and innocent. This is just one example of how the costumes throughout this film are symbolic and capture specific tones that set the mood for each scene.
A great example of descriptive facial expressions displayed in this film is a scene shared by Miss Giddens and Martin Stephens (Miles), where she finds a dead bird under his pillow that has its neck broken. At this moment her face remembers a time when Miles had his arms around her neck and was choking her, though the character never says anything about it in this scene.
This film was terrifyingly gripping, and the eerie tone, and great use of symbolism added enormously to the success of the film.