Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Innocents Review

Fig. 1. The Innocents poster
A tale of terror and mystery, Jack Clayton's The Innocents is a well thought out and executed film that welcomes deception and uses it to mask it's true nature. Owning no definitive answers, it certainly holds many and choosing which ones to believe over the others gives a possible definition. The strange events that occur, bring upon questions of the reality of the world and the film. The adult-like personalities and behaviour of the children, bring a very 'unheimlich' feel.

Jack Clayton created a film that he wanted to be picked apart and interpreted into their own. His objective was to challenge the audience intellectually, a difficult task at that. The two characters; Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) and Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop), that have ghost-like appearances are only visible to Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), with which she interrogates the children about, begging the question of Giddens' mental state. Clayton fixates on Giddens' perception of the world, and it isn't so much wether the ghosts are real or just her imagination, but more about her relation towards the children and her sexual life.

Fig. 2. A paranoid Miss Giddens
Miss Giddens' states to her employer, with whom she appears to be sexual interested in, that she has an 'imagination', a strange observation to make about one's self, and that she loves children above all else, yet has never had any of her own. This suggests that she has an unstable/un-satifying life and entering an alien house would only further that instability. The scene when Miles is gripping Miss Giddens is a suggestion of her paranoia drawn from the written letter from his teachers. The later scene when Giddens and Miles kiss, a very uncanny moment which is made yet even stranger due to the length of the kiss, is a further clue to her sexual frustration leading her to perceive Miles as/or a relation Quint. Michael Atkinson summarised Deborah Kerr's character as the, "sexually straitjacketed governess subject to either the ghastly duplicity of her dead-eyed charges or the threatening ghosts of the estate's previous servants—or both" (Atkinson, 2005).

The last scene, however, when Miles dies, it appears that Quint was in control of Miles as if Quint was possessing Miles. Going back over events with this in mind, suggests that the housekeeper may have also seen the ghostly figures yet was too afraid to admit it as it was uncanny to her. The same with the children. They may have been in denial of the ghosts appearances, especially after witnessing them have sex. To see such a thing at such an age would have shocked them and influenced them in a number of ways. Ben Walters said that the, "
slow fades and a bravura dream sequence hint at the blurring of boundaries – between life and death, rationality and imagination – that so disturbs Miss Giddens, endowed by Kerr with a frisson of hysteria from the start" (Walters, 2006).

Fig. 3. A ghostly Quint watches over young Miles
Clayton has created a world that is an amalgamation of truth and imagination, and they have become so intertwined that it is difficult to distinct the two instances. Miss Giddens is trying to help the children confront the strange events that have and are happening. The refusal to accept or explain the strangeness is what drives the characters to their extremes. The soundtrack introduces the strangeness, not just to the characters, but to the audience as well. Wesley Lovell pointed out that, "Several times, when a mysterious figure enters the view of the camera through a foggy pain of glass, the right aural stimuli enhances the scene" (Lovell, 2011).

Illustrations
Figure 1. Jack Clayton (1961) The Innocents poster. At: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3978468608/tt0055018
Figure 2. Jack Clayton (1961) A paranoid Miss Giddens. At: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-PU5thZLwdQ0/TsGX6r2tOWI/AAAAAAAAF-I/XBo3eIagzCs/s400/Innocents_Kerr.jpg
Figure 3. Jack Clayton (1961) A ghostly Quint watches over young Miles. At: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_zuns3TuQa2Q/TTLk6iS86DI/AAAAAAAADaU/KTuUk-D6SeU/s1600/the-innocents-stephens-friend.jpg


Bibliography
Michael Atkinson (2005) The Village Voice. At: http://www.villagevoice.com/2005-08-30/screens/resurrecting-an-unsung-horror-gem/
Ben Walters (2006) Time Out. At: http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/76028/the_innocents.html
Wesley Lovell (2011) Cinema Sight. At: http://www.cinemasight.com/review-the-innocents-1961/

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