Ghost Story versus A. a Strange One

†††††††††††          From Henry Jamesís 1898 book, The Turn of the Screw, came a play by William Archibald in 1950 called The Innocents. After the play, came a movie by director Jack Clayton, also entitled The Innocents in 1961. All three are about the same characters and storyline, except the book and play come off as a strange, misunderstood story, while the movie is portrayed as a ghost story. The three factors that change this tale into a ghost story are: the music, the casting of the children, and the ghosts.

†††††††††††          One big contributor to making this a ghost story was the music, scored by Georges Auric. Whenever Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) would see the ghosts, all sound stopped. The music would fade away to silence, birds stopped chirping, and the childrenís laughter disappeared. As a sceneís intensity grew, so did the intensity of the music. Having the music added a sense of creepiness and drama to the scenes. When one is reading a book or the play, music is not a factor; and therefore these narratives lose their effectiveness. In books the dramatization is built up through descriptions and the way those descriptions were written came off as confusing.

†††††††††††         The next factor in making this tale an effective ghost story was the casting of Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens). These two came off as suspicious and possessed characters in the movie, while in the book and play, they seemed more innocent. For example, in the movie, Miles would constantly talk down to Miss Giddens in a tone of voice and with a vocabulary that did not sound as though it belonged to a child. Throughout the movie, Flora seemed preoccupied with strange thoughts.† She was constantly alluding to things involving death, for example: she was memorized by a spider eating a butterfly and wondering if turtles could drown. However, in all three accounts, the children were very charming and cunning and that is how they got away with all their tricks. Flora and Milesís facial expressions also allowed us to see them as strange and possessed, while the book seemed to paint them in a never faltering light.

†††††††††††         Finally, the ghosts come into play. Throughout reading the play and book, I realized that it was never clear if they actually existed or not. For a while they were believed to be a figment of the governessís imagination. In the movie it became clear they existed. It is hard to picture what they looked like from the description in the book and play, but the movie brings them to life! When we saw Quint (Peter Wyngarde) looking through the window, there was no doubt that he was a ghost. When Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) was found crying in the schoolroom, she let a tear fall on the desk. Then there was the haunting laugh of Quint and cries of Miss Jessel that always rang across Bly.

†††††††††††         After one reads The Turn of the Screw, there will be many questions. Many are never answered, and so the story seems strange and confusing. After one watches The Innocents, some questions are answered; and it is understood the story was a ghost story. Thanks to the music, child characters and realistic ghosts, the film became a scary ghost tale that will not be forgotten.

Kelly Kneer