To Believe or Not to Believe

         Henry James's 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, is an exploration of the supernatural. The story follows a young governess, without a name, through her experiences with two troubled, young children. The governess may or may not be haunted by the ghosts of previous employees of the household. The fascinating part of the story is that the question of the existence of ghosts is left up to the reader. The novella does not force the issue. The audience members have to make the decision for themselves.

         Jack Clayton's 1961 movie, The Innocents, is the film adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. Movies are by definition of adding a visual aspect to the written word. However, some stories are better left to the imagination. The Innocents takes away the power of the reader to decide if the ghosts are real. When Peter Quint's (Peter Wyndgarde) evil glare can be seen from behind the window, I could not help but believe he was there. When Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) appeared across the lake with the rain pouring down, I certainly believed in her existence. When those characters are given a face, it is hard to ignore them.

         Another downfall of the movie was Miss Giddens. The character of Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) was terrific, but the character is not supposed to have a name. When the governess was unnamed, it gave her a questionable essence. It was easier to believe she was a crazy woman drawing everyone else into her psychotic world when she had no identity.

         The Turn of the Screw is a story that offers the reader an opportunity to use his or her imagination. The Innocents takes away all the questions and interest from the Henry James novella. It started with an open-ended story. With the movie, the stories and questions were filled in until it is no fun anymore.

Casey McMillen

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