“Faith is twenty four hours of doubt and one minute of hope.”
The Innocents (Les Innocentes) is up there with Son of Saul (click here for my review) in terms of this year’s most harrowing dramas. It tells the true tale of a Polish convent that was invaded by a group of Soviet soldiers – nine months later and many of the nuns are due to give birth but, due to their vow of chastity and the subsequent public scandal that would occur, have kept the rapes and resulting pregnancies a secret. A young Red Cross medical student Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laâge) comes to their aid but due to the PTSD many of the women are suffering must work hard to gain their trust under a veil of secrecy.
The film is not an easy watch – it is clearly not going to be light-hearted evening entertainment – but it tells a story that is important and needs to be told. It explores complex and emotional themes with nuance and skill as it tells a story that many of us will not know. It’s insightful, told without judgement or puritanic condemnation of the women. Instead it is a quietly damning movie that serves as a heartbreaking history lesson of the female experience of war. It is so successful in doing this thanks to its being a well-told story, shot beautifully and acted superbly. The cast are equally wonderful as they portray the story with the necessary restraint, the absence of melodrama only further declaring the tragedy that occurred. And yet, during all this, there is also hope. A small glittering glimmer of hope – yet hope all the less – that compassion and acceptance can get us through unimaginable horrors.
The Innocents was released in UK cinemas on November 11th.
Dir: Anne Fontaine
Year: 2016 Run time:115 minutes