Subtleties that shouldn’t be ignored in The Innocents

Jack Clayton’s 1961 film, The Innocents, is eerie and haunting with many little details synchronized so well together, it creates this ominous labyrinth for the audience to explore and continuously wonder about the aftermath and effects of these symbols and the truth behind them. The fact that there is a young and pretty governess at a remote location with two neglected children should guarantee that malevolent forces will be at work to manipulate and take advantage of these vulnerable, unprotected souls. This movie is a psychological thriller masterpiece! While much deserves praise from the music, the dialogue, the acting, the editing, to cinematography, what captured my attention the most was references made throughout the movie which suggested towards Miss Giddeon’s sexual repression and how it manifested into dark terrors which she must confront during the movie.

The first few hints of Miss Giddeon’s sexual repression was at the beginning of the film where she’s being interviewed for a job position. The uncle would say phrases that seem to have a double meaning, such as “give me your hand, give me your promise.” These words seem to resemble the words of marriage, especially with how insistent he was about giving her power of that remote home. Another subtle hint is when Miss Giddeon arrives at the estate and talks to Mrs. Grose about the master. Her behavior signals that of a young woman very innocent as she was caressing the flowers, then looked at her own image, and comments being made about Miss Giddeon being young and pretty. The weren’t able to leave those comments alone when it was mentioned that the master “seems to like them young and pretty.” It was as though these two women were trying to bring up the topic of sexuality but very awkwardly. It’s so repressed that it’s a struggle to get to the point about the topic. Which is the main struggle of the movie: going through those dark truths to expose and release the problem the children are facing.

Another example of sexual repression being used as a tool to create a psychological disturbing scene is mostly with the children, namely Miles. Such as, when the children were playing hide and seek and Miles pounced on Miss Giddeon in the attic room. He has her in a head lock and with a cruel smile, claims that she is his prisoner and refusing to let go. Also Miss Giddeon tosses and moans on her bed, especially after her encounter with Peter Quint. Her description of him had a hint of yearning as she readily pointed out that he was handsome, and peering through the window looking for someone. It almost sounded romantic. The sexual abuse and the sexual violence and trauma, later revealed in the movie, is vivid through the clues of subtleties and those dark places.

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One thought on “Subtleties that shouldn’t be ignored in The Innocents

  1. I think we need to allow The Uncle’s lines to represent HIS character rather than Miss Giddens’s. He is the one who is being “seductive” in using the language that normally would belong to a marriage proposal in making Miss G a job offer. Both he and Peter Quint are referenced when Mrs. Grose says “He always liked them young and pretty” after which she talks about his “devil of an eye” and then, realizing that her reference had shifted to the valet, confuses the issue by saying “the Master, no one else.” Similarly, Miles acts seductively toward Miss G, as we objectively see. It’s still possible that Miss G is having hallucinations, or imagining things, I think Capote’s screenplay is clearly designed to give us alternative explanations of what is going on at Bly.

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