The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and starring Deborah Kerr, is a 1961 film adaptation of Henry James’ ghost tale novella The Turn of the Screw. The film is over a half-century old yet still has the ability to unnerve its audience through an innovative opening, carefully crafted performances, and unreliable narrative.
The film opens with a black screen and only the haunting sound of a girl singing. We do not see an image for several seconds, we just listen, and right from the start the movie has us on edge. Soon we meet Kerr as Mrs. Giddens, a governess who accepts her first job caring for two young children, and who soon becomes convinced that something otherworldly is wrong with them.
Mrs. Giddens’ demeanor is a shade too dramatic but she might just be resolute in her concern for the children’s safety. Similarly, the children Miles and Flora, portrayed by Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin, respectively, may be possessed by evil spirits or perhaps merely seen askew as such by Mrs. Giddens. As the movie ends, we are left wondering what is real and what is not, and whether anyone at all is really an innocent party.
It is a brilliant movie, and one everyone should check out from our library.
You might also be interested in a direct adaptation of Turn of the Screw. This version was originally produced for Masterpiece Theatre. It stars Jodhi May, Grace Robinson, and Joe Sowerbutts.
Our guest reviewer, Alex Goodman, has worked for LFPL for nine years, and for the past three at the Middletown branch. He has been a film buff for much longer than that.
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