Editing in The Innocents

There are three basic ways to splice two pieces of film: an abrupt cut, a fade to black, and a dissolve (where we see two scenes simultaneously with the first bleeding into the second).

When there is a shift in both time and place, cuts are rare in The Innocents. Only once that I can recall does director Jack Clayton use a cut between shots that are discontinuous in time: there is an abrupt cut at 15:08 when the scene shifts to Flora playing boisterously in the bathtub.

In many contemporary films the “grammar” of editing uses fades or (more often) cuts with a sound bridge to get us from one sequence to the next. Not in this film. Here Jack Clayton uses the dissolve far more often than in any movie we have seen thus far as a transition between sequences of shots indicating shift of time or place. He even dissolves between shots where there is NO shift of time or space, just a shift of camera angle–as when Miss Giddens goes up the stairs to the tower roof of Bly, then we dissolve (30:34) as she emerges onto the roof.

Dissolves with lots of disparate images are ALSO used in the film for dream sequences–in Miss Giddens’ nightmares as at 58:56 to 60:31–which are nothing if not subjective.

So here’s the big question: Could it be that by using the dissolve for transitions, as well as for dreams, Clayton gives the entire film an interior quality, as though the waking sequences were representing someone moving between memories? Is this the director’s subtle way of insisting upon the subjective quality of what we are ‘objectively‘ seeing?


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