The Innocents (or in its native language, ‘Les Innocents’) is a French film set in Poland, 1940. One of the selections for Sundance Film Festival, it is a beautifully-shot testament to human suffering in a time of war.
The storyline follows a French woman who works for the Red Cross, Mathilde, who chooses to help a convent which has been pillaged by Russian troupes, where many of the nuns are raped and left pregnant. This of course causes many problems for the women’s vows and general belief in their faith. Mathilde insists that the women need professional, medical help in their time of need, but to avoid shame for the convent the Mother Superior insists that only Mathilde can know.
Just 10 minutes into the film we are presented with a gritty depiction of a caesarean, which whilst shocking at first, goes surprisingly smoothly. This sets the tone for the remainder of the film and reflects the plot’s subversion of ideas, and the notion that what once may seem impossible can become plausible.
"By half way through I was totally gripped and invested in the film’s depiction of motherhood, pain"
As well as focusing on Mathilde’s personal experience and what she learns from the nuns and their incredible triumph of suffering, the film’s second protagonist is Maria, one of the few French speaking nuns in the convent. Maria develops a real friendship with Mathilde, and their unlikely comradery is the saviour of the whole film.
Along the way we experience the terrible ways in which the Mother Superior handles her conflict of faith, and also the many ways in which human kindness can overcome even the most terrible of events. The cinematography is intense, often showing you more than you would like but the intention of the film is pure honesty.
Although it has a slow start by half way through I was totally gripped and invested in the film’s depiction of motherhood, pain, and the extents people will go to in order to keep faith in the midst of war and suffering.
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