Thursday, June 21, 2007

Final Girl Film Club: The Innocents (Askewed style)

I had it so totally planned out, I was going to get “The Innocents” in the mail quite early (almost immediately after the last Film Club review ) watch it and write down my thoughts and have everything wrapped up in a nice little bow safe and sound just waiting for the due date to spring forth.

Then I got the movie and watched it. I don't know what the reason was but on my first run through the movie I was heavily disappointed, it could have been my mood, it could have been the expectations I had for what I was going to see, it cold have been the great big glass of haterade that I had with lunch I just don't know. What I do know is that I saw it the first time and was demoralized, the motivation that I had felt to write something up and get it ready dwindled to almost non existence. I struggled to put words down. So I took a break and moved on to some other movies.

One of those movies was “Wrong Turn” another movie for which I had really high hopes upon my first viewing (a few years ago) but was ultimately disappointed by. The only reason I gave it another shot was because Stacie demanded it (by demanded I of course mean gently urged(by gently urged I mean subliminally implanted the command into my brain(Woof!*))). As it turned out I no longer agreed with my first thoughts on “Wrong Turn” Though it is not my favorite movie of all times, I still have some issues with it...I mean come on you you hired Eliza Dushku for a reason give the poor girl something amazing to do!..but I digress. The point is when I started thinking about finishing up what I had written about “The Innocents” I realized that maybe I was quick to condemn it.

It was decided (by me) that I needed to watch it again. Sadly I had already packed it back up and shipped it on it's merry way so the second viewing would have to wait until the magical mail gnomes saw fit to once again deliver DVD goodness to my doorstep. This is what took a large chunk of my time.

Once The movie arrived and I started watching it I caught myself really getting into it this time, enjoying it and noticing a lot more than I had the first time (in my original viewing it never even occurred to me that the haunting may actually not be real). At that point I really had no choice but to rewrite everything.

Also worth noting, while I write these things I usually scan through the movie so I can point out certain scenes more clearly and grab screen shots if I want. The first time I attempted to do it this time I ended up just watching the whole thing through a third time.

*I barked like a dog? What on Earth are you talking about, I did no such thing!

The Basics
When Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) takes on the position of governess for a young girl, Flora (Pamela Franklin) and her brother Miles (Martin Stephens) things start out quite well. She lives out on a country estate in England, a rather large and beautiful estate at that. The children seem quite well behaved. She even strikes up a fast friendship with longtime housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins). Yes things seem to be going well indeed. Or are they?

Not long after Miss Giddens arrives she begins to believe that the spirits of the recently deceased governess, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and her lover, the valet Peter Quint (Peter Wyngard) are not only haunting Bly. But they are also attempting to poison and claim the souls of the children!

What worked for me
Normally here I like to pick out some scenes or dialog that really stands out to me and proclaims “Hey I'm awesome, remember me!” But I confess I am kind of at a loss this time. Not because there weren't any awesome scenes but because there were way to many. The entire movie had a very fluid feeling about it for me. But this would be even more boring than usual if I didn't try to come up with something and so we continue on.

There are things about the movie that I can point out. Things that all to often I tend to overlook or take for granted but this time really caught my eye.

The scenery is perfect; extremely lush beautiful countryside leading up to the estate, some great garden areas in the surrounding area some quite pleasant some downright creepy. That isn't even mentioning the house itself, you can definitely feel how large the place is, a vast amount of rooms each finding a way to invoke a different emotional response (even the creepy creepy hallway gets into the act).

If I mention the scenery I also must find time to mention the lighting. Would the hallway be half as creepy if it wasn't for the flickering candlelight keeping only the essentials visible? Probably not. Would the scene in which Miss Giddens sees Quint up on the tower been quite as intense if not for the blinding light pulsing in and out? I don't believe so.

The best thing about the movie for me though? The fact that it is never explained whether or not the haunting is real or if it is all nothing more than a very unfortunate figment of Miss Giddens imagination. In the end you get to believe whatever you want to believe.

A few tidbits I really enjoyed
Ok, so I decided there were a few scenes worth mentioning, leave it to me to contradict myself..I'll beat myself senseless later, but for now...

I really liked the entire opening scene/setup with The Uncle (Michael Redgrave). Very quickly it presented everything you needed to know. You learned that the children were orphaned, why The Uncle isn't taking care of them himself(I wouldn't either, them are some creepy kids), why they need a new governess, what is expected of her, what experience she has (or doesn't have), where she comes from(preachers daughter?...that explains a lot), that above all else she loves children (why doesn't she marry them then?....sorry). I also rather like the character of The Uncle. If nothing else he is honest.

Though most of the scary/creepy in the movie was in fact creeping (pun may or may not have been intended there) there is one scene that does stand out as unsettling. Miss Giddens decides that a quick game of hide and seek before bed would be ok for the children, when her turn to hide comes she masterfully decides to hide behind a closed curtain (because who would look behind there?) but as she shuts the curtain behind her outside Quint slowly steps up to the window staring directly at (or is it through?) her. It may not sound like much as I have typed it but the cold stare of Quint combined with the absolute shock/terror on Giddens' face make the the scene quite intense and very unsettling.

And what can I say about the ending? As I said it is up to your interpretation. In my eyes what happened was Miss Giddens' hallucinations lead her into a madness that ended up driving poor Flora insane and left Miles dead from fright/shock.

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