Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Innocents (1961)

Miss Giddens, a young woman looking to gain an occupation as a governess, interviews an uncle of two seemingly innocent children which in turn leads to her being hired to a large estate in the countreyside. Flora and Miles, the two children, are now her responsibility and she is granted ownership of them. Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper knows everything that goes on within the house and is ordered to support Miss. Giddens wherever possible.
                                                                                                                         Fig 1
Whilst Miles is off at boarding school, Miss. Giddens spends time with the girl, Flora, but it soon becomes apparent that she is no normal child. Giddens begins to get strange feelings of suspicion once a sudden letter comes home noting that Miles' behavour is the reason. He is behaving in a manner that threatens his fellow students. The film doesn't enlighten us further into how exactly he is behaving, which is testiment to the film's knack for leaving questions unanswered. As we progress through the film, Giddens start to suspect that both children are being haunted by the spirits of two of the estate's long dead denizins, Peter Quin who slipped on ice outside of the door, killing him and Miss Jessel who was the estate's previous governess who drowned herself in grief of Quin's death.
Using lighting and shadows to create a consistant sense of unease, the film also uses these aspects to trick the viewer into seeing things which are not there or aren't possible. “Clayton's film-making, mustering frisson by both candle and blazing daylight, could serve as an object lesson in its genre.” (Atkinson, 2005) This quite rightly says that this film was one of the many few at the time to light a right atmosphere. It gives us a sense of us truly being in the presence of the house with these characters.

                                  (Fig 2)
We never know if the appearences of these spirits are in fact real or just a figmant of Gidden's over-active imagination as the film constantly swings between the two, particularly in the ending sequence where the audience is left alone to decide for themselves how her actions and the moral of her actions. As Steve Biodrowsky says in his review: “This unresolved mystery charges the events of The Innocents with a dreadful sense of uncertainty far more thrilling than the simple supernatural chills of a typical haunted house movie.” (Biodrowski, 2008)

Even for such and old film, it uses a fair amount of aged editing and editing tricks, but it pulls them off with such precision and finesse that they seem invisible to us. The film uses double exposure, to name one, in order to give the audience a feeling that certain feelings and memories weigh upon other scenes within the movie. It also uses sound to provide an eerie feel.
Modern audiences won't pay much attention to The Innocents, but they would do well to see this film as a favour to themselves, if not for the spine-tingling atmosphere than to simply view for themselves how films were made back in the day.



1 comment: