30 January 2006 | khalifakhella
A peculiar if intriguing attempt at adapting Henry James' Novella
This 1992 adaptation of "The Turn of the Screw" is a strange experience indeed. Taking the Henry James Psychological ghost story masterpiece as a starting point, writer/director Rusty Lemorande makes a film that is ultimately a failure, but a very intriguing failure nonetheless. The director takes the central premise of the well known story about a governess coming to doubt the innocence of the children under her care and realizing slowly that they may be haunted by the ghosts of her malevolent and sick predecessors, and produces a film that is much more modern (and by modern I mean graphic) which turns the story into a much more perverted psycho-sexual story about child abuse, the occult and of course repression (all themes that were addressed in Henry James' novella but in a much more subdued manner). But despite achieving moments of true dread and an overall ominous and doom-laden atmosphere (aided tremendously by the beautifully Gothic locations and the occasionally brilliant cinematography), the director errs by making the story lose all the subtlety that was imbued in the original novella and instead relying too much on graphic sex scenes and overt violence (although these only appear in dream sequences which are somewhat brief) and ultimately as many filmmakers do when adapting a classic story, reading too much into the story in terms of sexual repression and perversion. Although James' novella mainly dealt with issues of sanity, perspective and depravity, the main strength of the story was the ambiguity that James imbued the story with, something which made the story much more frightening and disturbing even a century after it was published. But director Lemorande throws all subtlety out the window by using ear-shattering musical cues, gratuitous blood and sex and by portraying the apparitions as some sort of demonic beings, which are all things that do not correspond with the original tone or intention of the original story. But in the end the film has its merits as Lemorands succeeds in creating some moments of visual ingenuity as well as the aforementioned atmosphere which is truly haunting and unnerving, things which many other adaptations of the same story failed to achieve.