The Innocents (Les innocentes) (2016)
Critic Consensus: The Innocents isn't always easy to watch, but its nuanced exploration of complex themes -- and its refreshing perspective -- are well worth the effort.
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Critic Reviews for The Innocents (Les innocentes)
An emotionally involving rather than harrowing film, with scenes as beautiful as oil paintings.
Director and co-writer Anne Fontaine makes every shot and every exchange count in her tender but penetrating exploration of sisterhood in a brutal world.
Fontaine ("Gemma Bovary," "Coco Before Chanel") has just the right touch. There is no melodrama here, simply women of faith living day to day.
Shot in artful, quiet light (many of the frames look like elegant paintings), "The Innocents" is beautifully performed by its nearly all-female cast; each nun, even those unnamed, is given her own personality and story.
The ghastliness of this situation has its black comic aspects, but director Anne Fontaine keeps everything on an even keel -- too even.
Audience Reviews for The Innocents (Les innocentes)
In every time and place of war, there are two guarantees: death and rape. Set in a Polish convent near the end of WWII, this powerful exploration of a nearly forgotten but presumably often occurrence makes that point unequivocally. After the nuns were subjected to sexual abuse by Soviet soldiers, several of them are left with child. To avoid shame or being ostracized, death sentences for the time and place, the Mother of the convent and a French Red Cross medic take very different steps to ensure survival for the women. Aside from it being beautifully shot, the film brings up complex religious and ethical themes. The intersection of the need to survive with the struggle for perceived piety are tantamount to how each of the nuns and the medic carry out their responsibilities. An interesting theme of particular note is that for the majority of the film, the presence of men (including the implied perception that God is a "He") is always accompanied with selfishness, violence, or ambivalence. The true focus remains on the primary cast of women who only have survival and salvation in mind. I don't think I've ever seen a movie that passes the Bechdel test so effortlessly. Even while being subjected to an awful situation, some of them can still find hope and joy. Whether or not that includes their religion or their children, the film makes no contrivances about what will bring closure after trauma. I haven't seen many foreign language films this year, so I don't have much to compare it to in that regard. However, I am sure that this is a genuinely important war film, akin to "Come and See", "Full Metal Jacket", and "Das Boot".
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