The Innocents (1961) [Possible Spoilers, although none in the first post]

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Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Having read a few recent posts about this film, I've decided to create an in-depth review/discussion of The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961) here. Now, I don't want to write so much up front that nobody else feels comfortable enough to share their thoughts, so I'm going to do this in bits and pieces in the hope of fostering more discussion and enticing film buffs to watch it for the first of hopefully many times. I find The Innocents to be an old friend, just as many of you find your favorite films. The thing which makes this friend so inviting is that I understand that it is multi-dimensional, so if I start looking at it in only one way, it will bring me back to reality by explaining to me that it's a full-blooded, living thing which is far more complex that I can ever try to explain to it or myself. Even so, if a film truly deserved to be examined in depth (of course! many do), this is one of the first I would pick.

One of the most incredible things about The Innocents is that it can be discussed on so many levels. The juiciest line of discussion is obviously the plot and what each individual takes from it. It certainly has an open-ended, yet incredibly-deep choice of interpretations, not only for the entire film, but for almost each individual scene. In fact, the way the film builds each scene upon the previous one will lead you to think the film is about something which you could easily interpret a different way every time you watch it. The truly wonderful thing about this plot, crafted by Henry James in his novella, The Turn of the Screw, as adapted by William Archibald and Truman Capote, is that it's never confusing. Even if you keep changing your mind about what you think truly happens, you are never confused. Rather, you are someone akin to a juror who has to look at a complex case from every conceivable angle. The Innocents truly rewards people with open minds who also pay attention.

Another aspect of the film which may be discussed "All Day and All of the Night" is the acting. I've been reading at a few sites how people dislike Deborah Kerr's performance. They say it's one-note. I'm not really sure what movie they are watching. Considering that Deborah Kerr was nominated for six Best Actress Oscars, I find it INCONCEIVABLE that she didn't get a best actress nom for this one. She plays a repressed Victorian 40-ish spinster who was brought up in a strict religious household. She is going to try to help people and children, but she is also going to interpret things in a certain way. Then, there are the children. Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin certainly give two of the greatest child performances in film history, so if anyone wants to fight about that, I'll probably just think you're a contrarian. One of the most important performances is that of Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins). She knows the children from the past, she knows the history of the dead servants and she's starting to know Deborah Kerr's Miss Giddens. Her reactions to everything are a key in unraveling the truth of the situation.

Of course, the technical credits are a place where The Innocents truly shows how significant of a film it is. Jack Clayton, a wonderfully-expressive director, had a way to elicit terrific performances and then drop them into meticulously-crafted films where he was able to draw your attention towards (and sometimes away from) all the most-important things in the movie. A Clayton film is suffused with visual wit, both from the cinematography (in this case, my fave B&W photography ever, by Freddie Francis) and from the film and sound editing. The sound design of this film is incredible, even if you can only currently get it in 2-channel on DVD. The sound effects often go hand in hand with the photography and the overall editing. A wonderful example of this is the scene where Miss Giddens sees what appears to be a tall man on top of a tower. This scene plays out with strange, buzzing sound effects while she's cutting flowers in the garden. The way the sound changes from the beginning through the middle and on up to the ending of the scene is a textbook of storytelling/filmmaking technique.

Of course, no amount of filmmaking pizzazz is going to get your attention if you just don't like the film. I'm not sure what makes some people like some films and not like others. I have tried to make my life into a BS study of some objective form of film criticism, but we all know that it's possibly a lost cause and probably a silly one too. So, I just hope you find films to love, and I'll try not to overcriticize when I see your choices and find myself incredulous. Likewise, I hope you have open minds too. Now, no matter what else matters to me about films and what constitutes a great film, I find The Innocents to have more truly shudder-worthy moments than any other film I've ever seen. I also find it to be perhaps the most disturbing film ever made, at least if you extrapolate all the plot significances out to the nth degree. It's truly frightening, X-rated stuff. Anyway, here is one of my fave moments in any movie, the hide-and-seek-scene.


OK, well, I said I was going to get into this slowly. Hopefully, there have been no spoilers so far, but if you want to discuss the film (PLEASE DO!), I'll get more into it. This is a film I highly recommend to all people. ash, if you want to come in here and discuss your disappointment, that's one of the reasons I put this up here. One thing you really need to pay attention to is the opening and closing credits. They are mind-bogglingly haunting and tell you a lot about Miss Giddens' thoughts and regrets. The opening credits are also a wonderful entryway into a totally unique film experience.

It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
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Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
OK, Apparently not only does anyone who has seen the film care to share, but no one who hasn't gives a crap. Another thread I put up which is completely irrelevant. At least I'll hold off a day to add something.

I've never read up on, or watched videos of movies I haven't seen yet. I'm feeling pretty sure if I read all of this, and watch those clips, I will be ruining parts of the movie for myself.

Like I said, I'll be trying to get this in October. I'll reply after that.

Great write up as usual mark. I've never had the pleasure of seeing this. Sounds like it is right up my alley though. I'm sure my Dad has seen it. He is really good about bringing flicks like this home when they come through his store so hopefully I'll get to see this sooner rather than later.
We are both the source of the problem and the solution, yet we do not see ourselves in this light...