By Justin Cudahy, Contributor
[Mars Distribution; 2016]
Prior to its release earlier this year, The Innocents revealed very little to the public. People didn’t know anything about the movie, including the plot, so when movie goers when to see it for the first time, they were in for a treat.
Based on a true story, The Innocents is a French film that takes place during the last few months of World War II, at a small convent in Poland. Nearby, a French Red Cross is set up to assist the survivors of the war. When Mathilde Beaulieu, a medical student working at the hospital, is approached by a nun for assistance, she discovers that the convent has been hiding a secret from the public. There she discovers several nuns who are pregnant after they were raped by Soviet soldiers who broke in one night nine months earlier. As a result, the nuns turn to Beaulieu for help in the next few weeks, changing her life.
Director Anne Fontaine does a phenomenal job in showing a different side of WWII, focusing on the religious aspect rather than the fighting going on, but are both as equally tragic. While the concept in itself is interesting and creative, The Innocents does drag at times, since not much really happens in the movie. There are one or two scenes that will keep you on edge, but they come at the end, and that’s after getting past scene after scene of just dialogue between two or three characters. Fortunately, the film is made up of a relatively small, but strong, cast. Actress Lou de Laâge does a phenomenal job portraying the young French medic and has amazing chemistry with Agata Buzek, who plays one of the nuns in the convent. While they both shine throughout, at some point you’ll begin to wonder when something is going to actually happen to further the plot.
The Innocents is a visually beautiful movie. Almost every scene looks straight out of a painting, mesmerizing you. The nuns in their black pushed up against a snowy winter in the background sets up for a contrast that is candy to the eye. The lighting is spectacular, especially during any scenes at dusk or dawn where it looks so natural and warm. Along with that, the movie is accompanied by a score mostly of the hymns that the nuns sing throughout, and the sound of bells. The lack of an actual score is what creates the unnerving and powerful atmosphere for the movie, keeping you on edge.
The Innocents is unlike any other movie, and that’s a great thing. To take a real event such as this, and translate this on the big screen takes certain talent, and Anne Fontaine did a splendid job in doing so. While the movie does get slow at points and doesn’t pick up until the last half hour, the cast as well as the gorgeous cinematography helps make up for it.