Novels Win. Always.

††††††††There is something to be said for the literary allowance for imagination. A novel can let the mind wander more adequately than film, and it allows a reader to make a story as terrifying or as tame as they wish. Part of the wonder of Henry Jamesís 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, is the debate it evokes about whether the main character is crazy or whether the children in the story are possessed. Jack Claytonís 1961 film interpretation of the book, titled The Innocents, attempts to keep that argument alive, but it does not quite succeed.

††††††††Jamesís tale includes several events that argue for the sanity of the main character, the governess, who adamantly believes her charges, Miles and Flora, are haunted by the ghosts of their former governess and her lover. The ambiguity regarding Milesí dismissal from school makes him seem suspicious, along with his final words concerning the dead lover. However, the fact that no one but the governess ever witnesses the ghosts, as well as her obsession with the children and their demon possession, makes her seem absolutely nuts.

††††††††All of the above information works well in print; but, when the interpretation of the scriptwriters, actors and director is thrown into the story, the plot becomes colored with their own points of view. In The Innocents, Deborah Kerr portrays the harried and obsessed Miss Giddens. Although the script follows the novella closely, including the ambiguous dismissal and Milesí (Martin Stephens) final exclamation, Kerrís performance deems the character crazy without much room for debate; and, owing to the nature of film, with clear-cut character reactions, I could see there was not much that could be done about it. Unfortunately, that eliminates the storyís psychological appeal.

††††††††It seems elementary, but that is the main difference between the novella and the film. The Turn of the Screw is a novella and has all of the vague and flexible characteristics of one, and The Innocents is a film with solidity and concrete interpretation.

Casey Northcutt

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