Pictures on the Wall

         In the 1961 film The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and starring Deborah Karr as Miss Giddens and Megs Jenkins as Mrs. Grosse, the estate is beautiful. Large stately rooms, gracious décor and an inviting garden make the country manner in Bly a house of dreams. The garden especially is a place of delight for the children, Miles and Flora. The garden is a wonder, full of the beauty of nature and expectations of fun. However, there is a sinister bent to the garden that is more subtle than the ghosts flitting around. The formal garden is full of statues of all styles, shape and sizes. The two statues that caught my eye were a statue of Dionysus and a statue of Pan. They are only on screen for a couple of seconds, and they are not the main focal part of the shot, but they are there.

         In a film, everything is there for a purpose and I believe that the fleeting glimpse of Dionysus and Pan serve to show the careful observer what was happening at Bly with Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. Dionysus was the Greek god of wine, revelry, agriculture, and fertility. He was also associated with ecstasy, spiritual intoxication and the initiation into secret rites. The cult of Dionysus observed rites of ecstasy. These rites involved the worshipers of Dionysus whipping themselves into a frenzy of orgasmic worship involving riotous sex and drunkenness. In this state, the worshipers would do anything, every depravity was allowed, and even murder was not unheard of.

         Pan, the god of woods, shepherds and sheep, is often seen as a companion to Dionysus. Pan is half man, half goat. His sexual appetites know no boundaries, and he spends his days pursuing women and nymphs. At night he plays his flute and listens to the singing of the reeds. Dionysus and Pan are often depicted together in Greek art, Pan playing his multi-reed flute and Dionysus drinking.

         I believe that the presence of these two Greek gods give clues to the nature of Peter Quint and enlighten the reader as to what was happening at the estate. I think that Peter Quint and Miss Jessel engaged in sexual activities in front of and with the children, sort of whipping themselves into an orgiastic frenzy in their worship of Dionysus and their own desires. And the fact that these gods were statues in the garden where the children played, kept the children under their control even before Peter Quint and Miss Jessel died.

         These statues were reminders to the children, just like pictures on the wall, as to what they had seen and done. It is no wonder that the children were under the spell of Quint and Miss Jessel. The statues were only on screen for a second, but I believe they say a great deal about the story.

Lisa Kell

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