Scared or Not to Be Scared

         If I were to move into a strange new house away from everyone that I knew and were to become a governess to two little children, seeing the former governess and valet, who were supposedly dead, would absolutely terrify me. This happened to the new governess in Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, filmed as The Innocents in 1961 by Jack Clayton.

         The governess, named Miss Giddens in the movie, as she is played by Deborah Kerr, comes to Bly at the request of the children's uncle, depicted by Michael Redgrave in the film. However, she soon encounters what seem to be the ghosts of Miss Jessel and Peter Quint (Clytie Jessop and Peter Wyngarde). When the governess asks the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose, Megs Jenkins, about these people, she tells the governess that the two are dead. However, neither she nor the children, Miles and Flora (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin), admit to seeing or hearing the ghosts, although there seems to be more evidence in the movie that the others are aware of the ghosts, which seem more real in the movie.

         In the movie it is especially evident that the governess, who starts out seeming to be normal, becomes more and more frightened and crazy as she continues to see them. This becomes noticeable because, when she first arrives at the house, she is very neatly put together. For example, at first, she is attired in bright colors, and her hair is neatly dressed. However, as the movie progresses, her clothes grow ever darker; and her hair becomes more and more disheveled. In fact, her hair almost looks as though she has she slept on it but then has not re-fixed it.

         In the play and movie, it is more noticeable that the children know about the ghosts, although they try and keep it a secret from everyone else in the house. In the part where they are all in the living room after Miles has just returned from school, Miles asks Flora about the fun and things that go on in the house. When the governess asks what he means by that, he laughs in a sinister fashion; and Flora shushes him, as though she knows about the ghostly secrets. In the story, Miles sneaks out at night to "be bad," as he tells the governess. However, in the movie, the viewer gets more of an impression from the way that Martin Stephens' Miles acts as though he had gone out to meet Peter. In a later scene both the governess and Flora see the old governess, Miss Jessel, across the lake, but Pamela Franklin's Flora seems to be lying when she denies that she has seen nothing.

         I really enjoyed both The Turn of the Screw and The Innocents. Although they were very close to the same in context, the children were much more mischievous in the movie and thus made the ghosts seem more real to all concerned--characters and viewers alike.

Terra Vance

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