Friday, August 12, 2016


The paranoid perverse pedophile governess is also a murderer


This adaptation is very faithful indeed with the characters, the setting, the various moments of the story, apparitions of the ghosts included. The film is also clear about the parents of the kids, the mother died of yellow fever, we assume in India, and the father died on duty in India too one year late. But the film, like Henry James’ novella, does not capture the tremendous trauma the children must have gone through and then – the film is clear about that – Miss Jessel got pregnant which made her have to go, to be let go by the Master. Pregnant from whom? The situation implies from Peter Quint. But the first double trauma of the children is now amplified by a second double trauma with Mis Jessel going away and dying, by suicide as the opening scene shows, closely followed by Peter Quint dying in some kind of accident, fake or not does not matter. And strangely enough only the nameless governess is traumatized by these facts and she is led into seeing ghosts that no one else sees.

The film insists on this aspect of the character. She is getting little by little haunted – but in her sole mind – by her two predecessors. The kids are at an age – and their having gone through these two double traumas helps – when they can capture the fears of adults and they can get motivated to play on these fears, for fun or in this case for liberation.

The governess becomes a power and control freak and she transforms teaching into taming wild animals if not beasts. She sees them perverted while she is the one who is perverted. The film is discreet on this side of things though Henry James insisted on the governess’s hugging, kissing, holding hands, embracing, etc., with Miles particularly. She was obviously falling in love with Miles and wanted to possess him so strongly that he would became part of her own self. She was cannibalistic in her unjustified love for Miles. To love a child is a lot more challenging than to love an adult because the child cannot answer, cannot say no, cannot run away and when Miles tries the governess does not understand. The film insists on that but not on the sentimental, emotional and physical love of the governess towards Miles that is definitely desire and this desire is somewhere felt as wrong, evil is her word, so she has to repress it and the ghosts are her tools to transfer her repressive desire against her perverse impulse onto the object of this pedophile lust, hence onto Miles, and accidentally Flora.

She literally tortures the kids with the ghosts, till the very end, though Benjamin Britten does a far better job with that last scene about being alone and how the governess is understanding the ambiguity of the situation on which Miles is playing full blast, and it works. That’s what the two kids show us in the film very clearly: they are playing with the governess like two cats and one mouse. She falls in the trap every single time and she ends up being a fool. But that fool is criminal.

The film here centers this last scene on the last breath of Miles. He is more or less dragged by the governess into her arms and into an embrace and here the films innovates because the call for “Quint, you devil, Where are you, where are you?” is a call for help when Miles sees his end is close, the praying manta has captured him. But Quint won’t be able to come because he is no where, near or far, he is no longer one of them. And the film is clear when it shows the governess embraces Miles to death, till death parts him from his life, and Miles is just plainly choked to death. No ambiguity, no fuzziness. She is a criminal and she was brought there by the size of the responsibility she was entrusted with and she could not cope with and up to.

Well done, well directed, well performed, the film is impressive, though in no way frightening. We are horrified by the governess’s fall into crime because of her repressed and unaccepted feelings and desires for a boy under her own educational responsibility. She is depicted as a closet pedophile who ends up killing the child she wants to possess, including physically. I am afraid though this takes a lot of mystery from the story without modernizing the vision. Such facts are rare in the concerned world of education, and in fact I just wonder if they are in proportion more important in this world than in the wide society around.

Note there is a mistake on the back sleeve of the DVD: the children are not those of the “charming bachelor” because he is only the guardian and they are his nephew and niece. But, well, a child is a child, though exiling one’s own “children” to a country house with not contact with their “father” would be more than unnatural – which it is here – but definitely inhumane and even barbaric.


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