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In Victorian England, the uncle of orphaned niece Flora and nephew Miles hires Miss Giddens as governess to raise the children at his estate with total independence and authority. Soon after her arrival, Miss Giddens comes to believe that the spirits of the former governess Miss Jessel and valet Peter Quint are possessing the children. Miss Giddens decides to help the children to face and exorcise the spirits. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Jack Clayton was dismayed to learn that 20th Century Fox insisted on making the film in CinemaScope. His cinematographer Freddie Francis set about making that less of a problem by framing the wide horizontal frame with lots of vertical lines to break it up. Conversely, he also used the wide space to emphasize shadowy spaces and using the emptiness towards an unsettling effect. To that end, he would often place characters at opposite ends of the frame. See more »
Miss Giddens is wearing one dress when Flora bursts in to tell them to come see Miles riding the horse. When they run outside, Miss Giddens is wearing a different dress. See more »
The film begins with a totally black screen and the sound of Flora singing for several seconds; then the 20th Century Fox logo fades in and out. The singing continues for a few seconds before the opening credits begin. As the credits display, we see an anguished Miss Giddens praying on the left side of the screen. Her actions are not explained until the film's climax. See more »
Horror that is the cinematic equivalent of rising damp
Director Jack Clayton's masterpiece is a study of deepest dread. Its horror is the cinematic equivalent of rising damp.
Deborah Kerr accepts a job as the governess of two strange children (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin) and becomes convinced that they occupy a world haunted by repressed memories and the restless dead.
Martin Stephens' performance as the unfathomable Miles is extraordinary. The child projects a physical authority rare for his years. His dialog exchanges with Kerr run the gamut from highly amusing to deeply disturbing.
Clayton's greatest achievement is the way he subverts common household settings to the point where they become arenas of fear.
The sound design is chilling, conjuring sudden terror and thrusting us into the complex mechanics of the Kerr character's growing paranoia.
Strikingly shot and lit, the film is a textbook example of grave cinematic suggestion.
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