Everything in White

As I watched the film “The Innocents” I noticed the very simple color scheme (despite the fact that the movie was in black and white). From the very beginning of the movie, when Miss. Giddens walks into the house to begin her position as governess, she encounters white roses. These white roses appear sporadically throughout the movie as well. There are also white pigeons and white horses.

However, the first time we encounter the white roses, Miss. Giddens touches them and the petals immediately fall off. White roses symbolize innocent and purity. I saw this as a warning. Young children are very often referred to be pure and innocent because they are so unaware of all the bad things that occur in the world etc. However, the petals fell off the roses indicating that their innocence has been tainted. This is followed by another encounter where Miss. Giddens is in the garden and as she touches the bush of white roses, she sees a broken statue of a baby where an insect is crawling out of its mouth. This is another way in which the movie tells us that the children have been effected by something that has interfered with that loved innocence a child has.

When it comes to the animals in the movie, the horses and pigeons are all white. I looked up what white pigeons are symbolic for and it appears that white pigeons and doves fall under the same category, meaning that the white pigeon is symbolic for love, peace, possibly purity, but also as messengers. The messenger part seemed interesting to me since there were often many white pigeons flying around during moments in the movie where I could have imagined crows would be flying and not white pigeons.

Horses on the other hand have many different symbolic meanings that go well with the theme of the movie. However, a universal symbol would be power and freedom. Miles comes racing on a white horse at one point in the movie. These children appear to be trapped in a world where they have no say in how they feel. As if there is a spell over them. The riding of a horse gives miles the sense of freedom that he does not usually have. However, In christianity, a white horse symbolizes death. This connects well the plot a symbol of the deaths that have occurred and that will occur.

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One thought on “Everything in White

  1. You’re certainly right that Clayton has got a really symbolic color scheme going in The Innocents. The white roses (symbolizing an innocent asexual love) are all over the place, and one of them features in the double dissolve at 27.59 that I pointed out during boot camp. (The double dissolve operates as though to tap you on the shoulder and say “this is a symbol: think about it”.) Given the meaning of white roses, we are jarred by the big sloppy kiss on the mouth that Miles gives Miss. Giddens, and her hypothesis (which isn’t spelled out in the novella) that Quint and Miss Jessel can only unite physically through the children whom they are haunting and whom they control. Oh, and there’s another white rose: the uncle is wearing one on his buttonhole.
    There is also a black color scheme: Miss Jessel wears black, and when Miss Giddens arrives in the school room, she too is wearing black. I think–I’d have to go back and check–that Miss Giddens is wearing black in the final scene, as though she is anticipating mourning….

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