Writer Nick Dear resisted the use of special effects to create the spine-chilling moments in his screenplay of The Turn of the Screw.
"When I sat down to write this I tried to find what it was that sent shivers down my spine. There is no point in trying to manufacture horror effects when you don't find them frightening yourself," says Dear.
"From what I know of people who claim to have seen ghosts... they talk about a real presence in the room, they don't talk about odd effects. I had always had a strong idea that the most scary aspect of the ghosts in this story was that they appear as real people. I think what makes it frightening is that we give the audience the information that the people are really dead, and that is more frightening than giving the audience special effects.
Dear recalls reading the book 20 years ago, and enjoying the "crisply told" story. He read it again when producer Martin Pope approached him to write the screenplay.
"I decided I would make the screenplay straight, and not fiddle around with it, to do as much justice to the original story as possible. I wanted to play on the ambiguity in Henry James' novel as to whether the ghosts are real or figments of the governess' imagination."
In preparing the scripts he researched Henry James' work, and was intrigued to discover that in correcting the original manuscripts for The Turn of the Screw, James had actually made details less clear, and increased the level of ambiguity about what was real and what was not.
Dear says he was also interested in the psychological process the governess travels through, and her "overdeveloped standard of Christian values and how children should behave".
"As the father of two little devils, I found it interesting to see the thin line between children being children and being naughty, and children being possessed by the devil and being evil. It is an interesting tightrope to walk," says Dear, who has two sons, Finnegan (9) and Pascal (8) with his wife Penny Downie.
Dear began his career twenty years ago by writing radio plays, before moving into the theatre, and working for the Royal Shakespeare Company. His first feature film screenplay, Jane Austen's Persuasion, won five BAFTA awards after its screening on BBC in 1995. It was subsequently released in cinemas worldwide. His recent screenplays include The Gambler (1997), which won ‘best European film' at the Brussels Film Festival, The Ranter and The Monkey Parade. Dear is currently working on a new version of The Beggar's Opera, called The Villain's Opera for the National Theatre.
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