Keswick Film Club - Reviews - The Innocents

Reviews - The Innocents

The Innocents

Reviewed By Chris Coombes

The Innocents
The Innocents
Last Sunday The Innocents came to Keswick Film Club. It is directed by Anne Fontaine, is in French, Polish and Russian, and it is based on true events.

It's set in Warsaw in December 1945. Mathilde, a young French doctor is working for the Red Cross, when she becomes involved in helping Benedictine nuns, living together in a convent, who have been repeatedly raped by victorious Russian soldiers. A number of the nuns are pregnant and demonstrating varying degrees of denial whilst also clinging to their religious beliefs and the notion of chastity, thus intensifying the trauma that these cloistered women are coping with.

A non-believer, Mathilde takes many risks (including almost being raped by soldiers herself) to become part of the sisters' private and peculiar world, dictated by the rituals of their order and their strict and traumatised Reverend Mother. Fearing the shame of exposure, the hostility of the new anti-Catholic Communist government, and facing crises of faith, the nuns increasingly rely on Mathilde as they begin to appreciate her pragmatism in the face of fear and disgust. A strong bond forms between Mathilde and one of the sisters who, in her own way, and for her own reasons is willing to step outside of the rules of the order.

I liked this film very much. It was quiet, intense and intelligent. It examined what it is to be a woman holding strong religious beliefs, or at least being part of a strong religious community, and how this can change by becoming a mother. It was beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted. The sparse musical score was used to great dramatic effect. The Innocents told a story of unimaginable horror from a woman's perspective, whilst allowing us to understand that change can happen, people can heal and good can come from evil. In the end, this story was a celebration of sisterhood, pragmatism and good sense.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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