Hi everyone! I just saw The Turning and it was quite different to say the least. I’m going to do a bit of comparing with the original novel so if you plan on seeing the film soon, I’m going to have a lot of spoilers below.
The Turning, directed by Floria Sigismondi, is about 90 minutes long. It’s based on the original novel The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, published in 1898. The gothic story revolves around a schoolteacher, Kate, who slowly descends into madness. She is hired to be a governess to look over a young girl, Flora and her brother, Miles. He’s is a troubled kid that got sent back from boarding school. Kate feels sympathy for them as soon as she’s appointed the job because their parents are both dead and she knows what it’s like to live without parents. To top everything off, they live in a huge secluded mansion in the forest (Obvious huge red flag but what do I know?)
Side Note: ‘the turn of the screw’ is a phrase that means to make a situation worse.
The movie starts out with the former governess, Jessel, who desperately tries to escape the mansion in terror. As soon as she reaches the gates, she sees someone in her car and things don’t turn out too well for her. Before Kate leaves for her new job, she visits her mom in a mental hospital. We see her mom secluded in an empty pool frantically painting a picture. She doesn’t seem to notice her daughter at all until she mentions that she’s looking after a little girl. Her mom warns her that it’s a big responsibility and gives Kate a colorful, erratic portrait of her self to ‘keep warm’ and goes back into psychosis and works on other charcoal paintings. Eventually, we learn that Kate’s mom’s pictures foreshadow her fate.
When Kate reaches the mansion, everything around her was gray and green. I kind of got the impression of Little Riding Hood when she stuck out of her surroundings with her red coat. She meets the family’s lifelong caretaker, Mrs Grose, who immediately disapproves of Kate. Mrs Grose is very protective of the children and even gets offended when Kate tells them to clean up after themselves. She sees the children as though they can never do wrong, despite their misconduct around the Governess. Throughout the movie, it’s obvious she knows a lot more than she lets on.
Flora starts out as a sweet, playful little girl who quickly warms up to Kate. Miles abruptly comes home from boarding school after getting kicked out for kicking this kid’s ass for burning his father’s pictures. Eventually the children (or Kate’s own mind?) drove her to insanity. Miles is shown to be charming, controlling and sadistic. He tries to win over Kate by being polite and when she sees through this, he becomes a little terror demon child. He stomps on a dying fish, kills spiders, speaks for Flora, makes creepy comments to Kate. In the end, even Flora turns into this little brat. She accuses Kate of dropping and breaking her porcelain doll, which makes me question if we imagined the cute personality we saw during the whole film. There’s times where the kids make side comments like constantly asking her about ‘bad dreams’ and knowing things that they shouldn’t (the apple in Kate’s pocket or her hidden tattoo).
Kate starts to frequently see visions of her previous counterpart, Jessel and a man. When she confronts Mrs Grove, we learn that his name is Quint, who was a ‘brute’ and a bad influence on Miles. A lot of Mile’s awkward, pervy behavior seems to mirror Mrs Grove’s description of Quint. Quint died from falling off his horse drunk and Miles seems to have an obsession with them. I don’t want to discredit Finn Wolfhard branching out, but it was kind of awkward imagining Mike Wheeler describing a tattoo as ‘sexy’.
My interpretation of everything that was going on was that due to her Kate’s mental history, being secluded in the house and reading Jessel’s diary, everything was adding up to her breakdown. The broken dolls scattered around the house alluded to her fragile mindset and the false perception that she has regarding her surroundings. Even through Mrs Groves was cold, she could see her mental state and warned her about the ‘inevitable’.
The ending did well with portraying how the original literature left on a very ambiguous note. I feel as though mainstream audiences might not enjoy the film as much due to the open, abrupt ending. I respect the beauty of how did not spoon feed us the whole plot, instead Sigismondi did justice to James’ story by having us use our fears to fill in the gaps. The point of both stories was to have the audience see everything through Kate’s perspective and question everything that happened. I thought the abrupt ending with seeing her ‘mother’ may have been grandmother. That, to me, is the only thing that could have possibly made sense because of her creepy cameo in the beginning. Again though, this was kind of a WTF plot hole because she was just randomly thrown in there.
Some of the bigger differences between the novel and film was that in James’ adaption, the Fairchild’s father WAS alive, but he didn’t want anything to do with the children. The ending was also very different. In the novel, Flora is sent away by Mrs Grove’s and Miles mysteriously dies in Kate’s arms while she tries to confirm that he can see Quint’s ghost too. We don’t know if he perished from being suffocated by Kate or if it was from the shock of seeing Quint. Either way, the point of the story is to have us create our own ending.
In this movies defense, ghost stories back in the day were A LOT more subtle than what we’re used to seeing now. I enjoyed this jigsaw puzzle of a movie, although there were way too many plot holes that did not make sense. In the end, I would rate this a 7 out of 10 monster rating. The scenery of the mansion and its surrounds were beautiful. The fog and twisted trees alluded to Kate’s mindset and it gave a very sad ambiance. The film did a great job by keeping the story very close to the original. The ghosts were kind of (really) cheesy and reminded me of the ghosts in Crimson Peak. Also, I don’t know if you guys played the video game Hellbade: Sensua’s Sacrifice, but that’s kind of the feel I got. Just go in with an open mind. Again, this movie is a slow burn and the ghostly horror elements were very subtle. If you saw it, let me know what you thought about it 👻