As with the previously reviewed Nosferatu (1922) you can only go back so far before the shock and horror factor wears off. It’s undeniable that as the medium of film has matured, generally films and film makers got better until the 1970s. As we look back upon films such as Jack Clayton’s The Innocents, we have to take certain things into account that look clunky to our modern eyes.
Take for example the acting in The Innocents. Most of the cast give very stagey performances. Deborah Kerr’s central character Miss Giddens, and only other main adult character, Mrs. Grose, (Megs Jenkins), are very stifled and do suck you out of the fictional world.
However this quirk of that time’s acting has an incredibly strange and powerful affect the more we are temporally removed from it. The children, the innocents, are Martin Stephens as Miles and Pamela Franklin as Flora, and they too employ this very stifled and stagey acting technique. The two are also incredibly good actors, and being of this time they act in the way those around them are. They are prim, proper, very well spoken and not at all unruly even when they are supposed to be. They are incredibly adult and very, very unnerving.
The reason this is so powerful is because the adults are not at all acting in a naturalistic manner either, but just straight acting. When this is cut next to the perfect reflection of this in the children, this very weird and unique combination of acting styles renders the innocents more disturbing than would be possible outside of this time period.
As such, combined with some chilling and painterly ghost effects, The Innocents is one of the few oldies that still has the power to make your spine tingle.
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