The 1961 film The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton, follows the play of the same title (William Archibald, 1950) which is based on Henry James's novella The Turn of the Screw (1898). The story is set up to be a ghost story that keeps readers and viewers wondering what it is these ghosts want. But, it has been debated on whether or not James's ghosts haunting two young children and their new governess are even real or not. Though there are clearly reasons for and against the ghosts' existence in the novella, Jack Clayton's film makes it much more difficult to believe the ghosts are real.
In the film, the governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) first sees a man atop the tower at the residence. However, she has been walking and daydreaming for some time before she notices this man. It could have very likely been a figment of her imagination. The next time she sees this man again, he is much closer, and she is able to describe his face. However, in the scene right before this encounter, viewers see Miss Giddens discover a photo of Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde). Of course Miss Giddens describes the "ghost" to match the image she just saw in the photo. When Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins) tells Miss Giddens the story or Peter Quint and Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) it is as if Miss Giddens becomes overly obsessed with them. Maybe the story was the trigger to get Miss Giddens' imagination going.
Plus, I must not leave out the most crucial point: Miss Giddens is the only character that ever sees the ghosts and the only one to claim to see the ghosts. Mrs. Grose never acknowledges anything of the ghost-sighting kind, and she never seems to believe Miss Giddens at her proclamation. Neither of the children, Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin), ever sees the ghosts. In fact, they seem to only be troubled when Miss Giddens' obsession gets out of control, and she begins to frighten both the children. If the children did see of know about any ghosts, it would most likely come out in some form or fashion and it never does. The only factor that ever disturbs their "innocent" lives is Miss Giddens.
Perhaps there is something viewers do not know about that is really haunting Miss Giddens because clearly the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel do not exist.