Innocently the Best

     Out of all of the film adaptations we have viewed this semester I feel that The Innocents, directed in 1961 by Jack Clayton, was the best. Unlike the bulk of the other film adaptations, this one could stand up on its own two feet without the help of the 1880 book, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw.

     At the beginning of The Turn of the Screw, we have a group telling ghost stories, which leads into the main story of a governess who has been sent to teach a couple of kids, and during her stay she sees ghosts. This was an unnecessary opening that The Innocents cut out and in its place added an opening that explained better why this governess, now named Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), was being sent to the place she was going to. This opening scene gave more life to her character and let us see a glimpse of the uncle (Michael Redgrave), who wanted nothing to do with the children.

     Besides having a great opening, this work had a fantastic soundtrack. Soundtracks add emotion where words in a book cannot. When I read The Turn of the Screw, I felt that I was reading a regular ghost story. When I watched The Innocents, the soundtrack made my heart race and made me feel scared. For me there was a lot more emotion watching the film than reading a book.

     To top these two off, the camera work by Freddy Francis sent this piece over the edge for me. When one reads a book, one usually gets a picture of what is happening, and, if that picture were put to film, then all of the shots would probably be medium shots. The Innocents throws out the normal picture and gives one eerie close-ups, long shots, quick cuts, double exposures, wipes, and overhead shots. All of these distorted views put one in the film and make one feel as if one is the one being haunted. To add to this, the film is black and white which is an almost lost quality in new age horror films because of the huge contrast between the two.

     The Innocents stands on its own; and nothing else can top it.

Clint Todd

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