Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Turn of the Screw (2009)
This filmed version of James' novella is a travesty. It begins with the conceit of the insane asylum, in which the Governess is an inmate, as if this were an acceptable or even clever way to evoke the issue of her questionable sanity.
The shots and cuts seem to be meant to reinforce this simplistic kind of ambiguity, certainly with none of the subtlety of James' work, and sometimes even to opposite effects, and often garishly. For example, when the Governess first arrives at Bly, she is greeted by the staff. The camera pans over their faces and cuts to close-ups of especially sour-looking expressions in order to make us wonder whether this is really such a nice place, or perhaps that some of these unhappy people may wish her harm.
To get at the latent sexuality of the text, this filmed version relies on a piece of lingerie, flashbacks of Quint atop Jessel in bed, and the Governess' fantasies of her and the uncle in various hackneyed romantic gestures.
Mrs. Grose's rosy, innocent, and reliable sympathy with the Governess in the novel has been eradicated here and replaced with her somewhat cold rejection of the Governess' claims to have seen Quint and Jessel.
There's more. The music has been expediently installed to cue the intended emotional responses. The dialogue and characterizations, with their overwrought emotion, are both anachronistic and unconvincing, and get worse as the film wears on, ending with the children's swearing at the Governess, a device that's just plain tacky, and Miles' pummeling Flora, slapping her face and calling her the b-word before he dunks her head into the water of the lake. This is how the filmmakers attempt to answer the question, What harm might Quint and Jessel intend for the children? Why, to make the children into likenesses of themselves of course! Hence, at the end, Miles kisses the Governess passionately, while the image of the actor who plays Quint is superimposed over him.
It's not clear to me why so much of what's produced for television is so poorly done. If the producers and directors are dumbing their work down for wider audiences, then they ought to give us more credit. If they themselves are such poor interpreters of literature, then they should be given other projects, or discharged. Or haunted by Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, and Henry James himself!