Rated: PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including sexual assault, and for some bloody images and brief suggestive content. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 29, 2016 Released by: Music Box Films
Even if the subject matter is more unnervingly riveting than the final product, Anne Fontaine's 'harmonized' The Innocents (in French, Polish and Russian with English subtitles) still has undeniable dramatic traction.
The director of Adore and Gemma Bovary relates a harsh winter of 1945 tale after Nazis-occupied Poland was overcome by marauding Russian troops who had their way with hundreds of thousands of women many of whom subsequently took their own lives afterwards.
Loosely inspired by actual events from a French Red Cross physician and resistance fighter, Fontaine and her writers center on the ramifications of a French Red Cross doctor Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laage) assisting a violated Benedictine nun Teresa (Eliza Rycembel). It turns out more in her nunnery have faced horrible experiences at the hands of the occupying forces.
For what has happened these pious women feel an eternal damnation is eminent while being handled by health care professionals goes against longstanding chastity practices. So, reprimand comes by way of a stern Mother Abbess/Superior (Agata Kulesza of the highly involving "Ida") who projects much inexorable sway. There's also the cultivated involute in Agata Buzek's Sister Maria who has effective moments with the estimable de Laage and Kulesza. Also, as Dr. Beaulieu has a personal interest in a fellow colleague one Dr. Samuel (Vincent Macaigne) whose Jewish parents were victims at a concentration camp who aids in the illicit activity.
As reflected in the compassionate production of this fitful female-centric tale, much research obviously went into Benedictine life and the haunting anecdotes associated with despairing circumstances near a war's conclusion. The cinematography glistens at times as when Mathilde is stopped and detained at a Soviet checkpoint in the snow-covered forest. The rebounding from a potential ominous wit does employ a spiritual aura that may disrupt the momentum but not the tension and surprises felt amidst some poignant portraits especially from de Laage and Buzek who may catch the eye of many casting directors.
The Innocents preferably renamed from Agnes Dei could have benefitted from more accuracy when it comes to notions regarding Mother Superior and the presentation of C-sections and the like. Nonetheless, the blossoming into fruitful reality from its narrative essence rights the course well enough even for discerning art-house cineastes.