While her main source of company are the children, the only other adult presence is that of the House Keeper, Mrs Grose – whose character provides stability and a determination to say all is well, any paranormal activity doesn’t exist, and “stuff of nonsense”. Flora’s angelic qualities make her a slightly suspicious character as it leads to question her sincerity as many sceptics would find her nature almost too good to be true. Her haunting song rings throughout the film, leaving an echo of loss and a tragic ghost that refuses to leave. Her unusually perfect nature is contrasted by the unnervingly adolescent behaviour of her brother Miles, who seems to have no hesitations about his sometimes invasive advances towards the Governess which will definitely make the audience feel extremely uncomfortable.
We are also graced with the presence of the paranormal - the restless spirits of two aggressive lovers in Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, who are prepared to corrupt the minds of two innocent children to ensure their reunion. The history of these two spirits provides the audience with a strong sense of sympathy towards the children with their unnatural behaviour now explained. Despite knowing the reasons behind the children’s conduct, it makes you even more afraid of them when they enter the scene. It is a very uncomfortable experience for any horror fan to watch a film with the knowledge that a child’s innocence and potentially their life is in jeopardy. The history of these spirits is presented as shocking and horrifying, with slight hints indicating indecency without hesitation for all to see, even in the presence of innocent children. It is also explained how even in the life, these people used the children’s love and trust for their own ends. The revelation of this history is both slowly unfolded and subtle. It really agitates the audience’s curiosity and raises the tension of both the mind and emotion. The ghost of the man is a frightening image which is shown very sparingly but you cannot deny how frightened it is to see his image appear if only for a moment on the screen.
The Innocents embodies the fears that many adults have concerning the wellbeing of young minds. It also explores the plausibility given to us even by the main protagonist who we are meant to trust unconditionally. As the film starts leading to its climax, there are moments which cause us to doubt the sanity of the young Governess. We are certain that she has seen supernatural forces at work during her stay, however, making the children admit to the presence of the ghosts displays a challenge. She frightens them with her determination to unveil the evil lovers, the pursuit of her solitary assumption and the knowledge given in regards to her childhood in a heavily religious family raises the question as to her stability or whether she is leaping to the only cause she considers to be possible - possession.
While her confrontations with the children are emotionally draining to watch, one specific confrontation with Miles proves to be the most traumatic scene of the entire film. The swooping camera movement combined with a child laughing manically, with the smiling face of Quint standing behind him for a sudden cold silence falls on a dumbfounded audience gripped in horrific disbelief.
The Innocents is a ghostly classic that will never allow its audience to look at children the same way again.
Why We Heart: The Innocents
By Charlotte Castle - 13th February 2014
The Innocents is a haunting and frightening adaptation of the famous novel, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. The film was made in 1961 and even after all these years, it surprises me how it is still able to send chills down the spine and make the viewer feel a strong sense of unease and discomfort.
As those familiar with the narrative of The Turn of the Screw will know, it carries a strong theme that focuses on the corruption of the innocent. Set in Victorian England, young Governess Miss Giddens (played by the intense and slightly melodramatic Deborah Kerr) is sent to care for Flora and Miles - two orphaned children living at their uncle’s estate.