Monday, December 22, 2008

Kiss me good night, Miss Giddens!

And finally, to ring in the holiday season, I finally got around to watching "The Innocents" with Deborah Kerr. It's been on my list for years, since I read "The Turn of the Screw" in college. All I remember about that class (whichever class it was) was having to read five different essays that analyzed the story from five different points of view -- one saying the governess is a basket case, one saying the ghosts she sees are real, one talking about the children and their Freudian projections, and I don't remember what-all else. They were all pretty convincing and I came away with a mild headache and a deep-seated confusion about the story.

So it was really impressive to me that the movie upholds the same ambiguity. You're seeing it all in front of you, but you really can't tell what's going on. Miss Giddens (Kerr) is a fetching young governess who lands her first job ever after a flirty conversation with her cute employer. He explains, though, that she'll never see him -- he lives in London, and she'll be looking after his two young wards at his country estate. Still, she claims to love children, and she really seems to enjoy her work. But there's something weird about the children....

There is of course nothing creepier than creepy children, and the most awesome thing about these kids is that you never know if they're malevolent or not, but they're still utterly creepy. Young Flora prances around singing "O Willow Waly" (which turns out to be a song about mourning a dead lover) and slightly older Miles is just a little... precocious. Are they possessed? Are they just misguided? Is Miss Giddens really seeing ghosts through the windows? Even the ending leaves you wondering. But no matter what you think is going on, you have to enjoy the ride as Miss Giddens slowly loses it. When the ghost brushes past her in the schoolroom, oh my God, the hairs on my neck stood up.

I was also excited about this movie because it inspired Kate Bush's classic song "The Infant Kiss," which itself is pretty ambiguous: "There's a man behind those eyes... Oh, how he frightens me." Is it a love song or a song of terror? The movie walks the same line.

Brr. Let's take our niece and nephew's Christmas presents back to the store!

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