We Need Thinking Movies

         We live in an age of technology. For a movie to be successful today it needs to reflect our modern technology. Usually this means action scenes, explosions, flying people in fight scenes, unbelievable stunts, car chases, digitalized characters, believable monsters, or any use of technology or special effects not listed above. Some people might wonder if as much attention is paid to the script of these high-action movies. Today's horror films are filled with images that jump out at the screen or images of blood and violence; there is little thought behind the movies; and the plots reflect that fact. I personally prefer subtlety, perhaps even psychological thrillers. I enjoyed watching Jack Clayton's 1961 movie The Innocents starring Deborah Kerr, and based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw. The movie plays upon the mind of the audience, but it is not made to today's standards. We brought this fact up in class, and the class was split between modernizing and preserving the movie. I think in some ways it would benefit from being digitally remastered, and in some ways remastering the movie would hinder the story.

         The real point of the story is that the audience is never sure whether anything is real or not. The story revolves around a young governess (Kerr), as she takes a job caring for two delightful children, Miles and Flora (Martins Stephens and Pamela Franklin) that may be more sinister than they appear. The governess discovers that two former employees, Peter Quint and Miss Jessel (Peter Wyngarde and Clytie Jessop) of whom the children were fond, had died recently. She thinks she sees the former employees as ghosts, but whether or not she is correct is never revealed to the audience. We are left to believe what we want for the reasons we chose. This is a concept that is not often used in movies anymore. For some reason everything has to be spelled out for us now. Perhaps directors believe that is the only way the public will understand a movie, but perhaps the dumbed-down movies are the cause of a dumbed-down audience. I am afraid that if this movie were remade we would lose the pivotal point of the story being open-ended. If we could insure that remastering the movie would not add any definitive answers, I think this will not be a problem.

         One of the most notable things about the movie is that it was filmed in black and white. If the movie were remade it would surely be filmed in color. I think this may change the feel of the story, yet I am in favor of color. Although there are many scenes where the movie feels intimate and the lack of color accentuates the fact that anything could be hiding in the shadows, I think that adding color would be worth losing the intimacy. There is a lot of dialog in this movie and I think those scenes would be more enjoyable to younger audiences in color.

         If part of the appeal of the original movie is that we do not know if the ghosts will come out of the shadows, I think that digitally remastering the movie could add a great deal. The original movie had actors as ghosts; they would be standing where only the governess could see them. I did not find the ghosts frightening at all; I could not even tell how the governess knew they were ghosts and not lost travelers that caught her by surprise. I think that adding special effects would add to the fear of the ghosts, yet I fear that would make them more believable. I think we would need to have the ghosts be subtly aspirations of people. They could be there one minute and gone the next, and always appear out of the corner of the eye. I also think that they would need to appear as many times as they did in the book. The original movie cut out a few sightings.

         In many ways I am against remastering the movie The Innocents, yet in the end I think I am in favor of the revision. I think that the ghosts are not frightening to young audiences, so to appeal to changing tastes I think having digital ghosts pop out of unexpected places would be a favorable adjustment. As long as the revision is kept strictly to the novella, I do not think remastering the movie would lessen the story very much as the open ending would still be in place. As for losing the intimacy of black and white, just because we cannot distinguish if anything is in the shadows, that does not mean the movie utilized the shadows. I think adding color and digital ghosts make up for the lack of shadows. As long as the movie lets the audience decide for itself what is real I think the new movie would be a great benefit to today's audience. We need something to make us think as deeply as this story does, yet we still need our action scenes and special affects to appeal to everyone.

Rebecca Prince

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