Miles is probably my favorite character from classic literature, although I don’t think he’s ever been “done right” in any of the many screen adaptations of the novella Turn of the Screw. I thought the new series The Haunting of Bly Manor was pretty close at the beginning, but the problem with TV is the series sometimes overstays its welcome. This year also saw Finn Wolfhart play him in the movie The Turning, but the less said about that, the better. There’s 2006’s In a Dark Place, 1961’s The Innocents, 1971’s The Nightcomers, 1999’s Presence of Mind, 2016’s Through the Shadow, among several other films, some even using the book’s name. Miles has made appearances on Dark Shadows and Star Trek Voyager via Captain Janeway’s holodeck program, although in the latter his name was changed.
The main problem is you’re kind of told how to feel or think about what you watch, or at least more so than from a book.
We’re not supposed to know if Miles is an innocent kid, evil, or slowly being corrupted by the spirit of Peter Quint. Is Peter real or just a figment of the boy’s imagination? We’re not supposed to know if the governess is insane or haunted by spirits. Is Miss Grose plotting to drive her mad or just a bystander? This novella is basically the most ambiguous writing I’ve ever read, so how can any screen compete with that.
Miles is so interesting because we are meant to know so little about him. We don’t know why he had to leave his boarding school, we don’t know good manners are genuine or not, we don’t know if his ghosts are real, and if they are, whether he is plotting with them or not.
The opera is pretty good, though. I got to see it a few year ago.