Brit Movies: One Anglophile’s Take on The Innocents

Brit Movies: One Anglophile’s Take on The Innocents

Do the works of Henry James count as British literature? I mean, he spent virtually all of his writing career in London, set a lot of his works (including Turn of the Screw, which this film is based on) in England, but he’s originally from New York, and I’ve read some of his works in American Lit class. Yes, this is the third review in a row I’ve started with the question of “Does this count as a British film?” I swear on all the half-dozen or so copies of the Collected Works of Shakespeare I have lying around the house, I did not plan this trend. Sometimes, I plan on doing Never Let Me Go, but life throws me a new Blu-Ray of Don’t Look Now and sometimes the bargain DVD section of my local Half Price Books throws me copies of The Innocents and Master and Commander for a dollar apiece.

But, in the end, given that the film is set in Britain and every major creative force behind this film, besides original author Henry James, script doctor Truman Capote, and composer Georges Auric is from Britain (or at least an area that was controlled by Britain at the time), this is a British film.

The plot of the film is the same as the original short story: a governess (played by Deborah Kerr, in the second-to-last great performance in her exemplary career) is assigned to an English country house and is left alone with a military man’s servants and kids. Their son, Miles, is expelled from his boarding school under mysterious circumstances, and exhibits some increasingly strange behaviour. Around the same time, she hears mysterious voices and sees strange figures nobody else can see, who turn out to be identical to two former employees who died recently, causing her to wonder if the home is haunted. Are the ghosts real? Is the governess going mad? Nobody knows, possibly not even Henry James himself, and that’s the beauty of it.


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