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
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 »
The title loads this gun a little differently than the original from the long short story (or novella) by Henry James--The Turn of the Screw. But Jack Clayton's version of the story gets at the point with great ambiguity--uncertainty is key, and the suspense is partly under pressure because we don't quite know which side to take.
I can't say more, of course, because even a hint of a hint will start a viewer off on the wrong foot. But know that The Innocents is vigorously filmed in widescreen black and white, that Deborah Kerr, always a cool actress, is perfectly cool here (some might just say British, but she has no Julie Andrews in her governessing, and no Elizabeth Taylor in her at all). The two kids are both rather poised and charming as well as chilling, the boy especially intriguing for his precociousness (and preciousness). We empathize with all three equally, and yet, as you see, you can't quite see the events from their three pairs of eyes equally. Something is wrong, and you wait to see what, and how it will be revealed.
If it ever is. One of the brilliant things about Henry James is how you finish one of his books (the novels are better than the stories for this, I think) knowing what has happened but not knowing completely why. I mean, it all makes sense and feels right, but it feels suspended with an air of lingering needs. So you end up thinking about it later. As you will with this film.
There are some moments of special effects that are very well done even if a kind of 1950s/60s style of overlapping images and dreamer/dreamed simultaneousness. And the ghosts, not to give anything away, are pretty matter of fact. This is more an appreciation than a complaint, because the lack of gore, of cheap surprise, or of obvious scare tactics makes the movie a relief, and a bit of cinematic magic.
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