Ordinary Hide and Seek or Something More

        When playing the game of hide and seek, one is usually looking for something specific. In the 1961 film The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), the governess, finds more than what she is seeking while playing this simple childhood game. Whether what she is seeing is real or not is up for individual interpretation.

         Miss Giddens submissively gives in to the children, Miles (Martin Stephen) and Flora (Pamela Franklin), and allows them to play a late night game of hide and seek before retiring to bed. While seeking the children, Miss Giddens first sees the image of Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) in the hallway yet sort of shakes the idea off. Next, she hears music coming from the attic and enters thinking she will find one of the children. What she finds, however, is a box that opens up all sorts of problems for the entire house. The music had been coming from a small music box that contains a picture of a man. This image sets Miss Giddens' mind reeling. It becomes imprinted in her thoughts and, throughout the film, she is unable to shake it.

         At this point Miss Giddens begins to draw her own conclusions about what has occurred before her arrival and what may be going on in the house at this very moment. Flora's recognition of the box and her desire to keep it only adds another piece to the puzzle building in Miss Giddens' brain. The children then convince Miss Giddens to hide so that they can find her. She is found first, however, by the man from the picture, staring at her through the window. She cannot hide from the ghosts any longer for they have found her and woven their way into her constant thoughts. She is startled and bewildered by them but soon begins "understanding" their presence.

         This game, hide and seek, is much more than child's play. From this point on, Miss Giddens theories and conclusions begin to spiral out of control. She devotes herself to protecting the children from her own thoughts. Hiding is no longer an option and she begins to seek more than perhaps she is prepared to find.

Michelle Farney

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