The Innocents (2016) directed by Anne Fontaine is a compelling film that grazes dark times during a post war era – aspects that rarely receive attention are plowed and brought into focus in this remarkable film. Based on true events, the plot is set in Poland during winter of 1945 when war is over yet civilians are still suffering aftermaths. Civilians appear to be in denial of how severe the situation for humanity has become – faith and trust in religion is questioned and women are wronged by inequitable resolute patriarchal power.
Mathilde (Lou de Laâge) is a French doctor who practices with Red Cross, she is discreetly sought by a nun to examine one of the sisters in a Polish convent. Upon arriving, it is apparent that the sister is pregnant and the story reveals six other sisters, who are all rape victims of Russian soldiers that are pregnant and need assistance as well. While Mathilde reaches out a helping hand for the group of nuns, everything must be kept a secret, the Poles and allied forces can never find out. Due to their religious beliefs and confidentiality needed to protect the sisters, there is skepticism and distrust between the doctor and sisters to begin with, but friendship and a trusting bond develops as they cooperate and understand one another during hardships and difficult times.
While the story is captivating and the actors were phenomenal playing out their respective characters, the film was very difficult to watch. What makes this film stand out in modern day cinema is the understated compelling plot with a deep focus on hope and friendship during difficult times. However, it is difficult to watch because of the multiple dark themes it touches on, allowing the audience to get glimpses of civilian life, specifically life as a woman, during the postwar period in the 1940s.
The film turned out to be arduous because it is told in an introverted perspective. While most modern films are loud and climactic, The Innocents is quietly packed with heart wrenching and somber events, it is effective in allowing the audience understand the characters of the story and the they will feel as if their emotions are being led on a leash, but the story becomes difficult and weighty as the audience experiences the horror and seemingly never ending series of misfortunes as well as the lingering burdensome themes that overshadow the plot of the film.
Overall, this was a phenomenal and outstanding film but it wasn’t an enjoyable one. This dark and melancholy film is not the film you would watch for the purpose of unwinding and relaxation as it is intensely philosophical and will have your mind lingering on themes that surround the storyline and characters. However, the film is definitely worthwhile to watch and it unquestionably has its own distinctive color amongst modern films.