Monday, 25 November 2013

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 348: Fri Dec 13

The Innocents (Clayton, 1961): BFI Southbank, NFT3, 6.10 & 8.40pm

This film, which is part of the BFI Gothic season, is on an extended run. Details here.

Time Out review of The Innocents:
'Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) isn’t a very experienced governess so she can’t be certain, but surely orphans Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin) aren’t like other children. They’re polite, of course, to the point of being patronising (‘my dear,’ they call her), and their dark, placid eyes defy suspicion, but there’s something unsettling in his self-possession, macabre in her delights (‘Oh, look, a lovely spider. And it’s eating a butterfly!’). Having already experienced weird apparitions on her arrival at Bly, the beautiful country estate to which the children’s indifferent uncle has consigned them, the governess learns of the violent deaths of her wanton predecessor and her cruel lover, and begins to suspect a supernatural cause for her charges’ unsettling behaviour. And so Miss Giddens’ war on terror begins; but does Bly have nothing to fear but fear itself?

Adapted (by Truman Capote and John Mortimer, among others) from Henry James’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’, Jack Clayton’s 1961 chiller lives up to the story’s title, incrementally tightening the nerves through suggestive technical artistry in a way that few contemporary ghost stories manage. The story’s profound, unsettling ambiguity is perfectly served by Georges Auric’s soundtrack of laughs and whispers and the constricting or fleeting forms at the edges of Freddie Francis’s B&W ’Scope frame (seen here in a new print). Meanwhile, slow fades and a bravura dream sequence hint at the blurring of boundaries – between life and death, rationality and imagination – that so disturbs Miss Giddens, endowed by Kerr with a frisson of hysteria from the start. Whatever is happening, she knows it is ‘something secretive and whispery and indecent’.'

Ben Walters

Here is an extract. 

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