The Innocents (Les Innocentes) is French director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel)’s most recent feature. It was part of the official selection at Sundance 2016. It is based on a true story.
Poland, December 1945, right after the war. A French Red Cross female doctor must help a group of cloistered nuns in advanced states of pregnancy, the result of massive rape.
With a heavy subject on her hands Anne Fontaine slowly deploys her direction with the sensibility and intimacy it takes. Her writings (shared with Pascal Bonitzer) is careful with details. The breathing space is created by editor Annette Dutertre’s work, not trying to steal the show but giving the proper pace. The sad but effective lightning of cinematographer Caroline Champetier (Holy Motors, Of Gods and Men) tells a story in itself. Globally, the way the director deals with the religious aspect is respectful either you believe in God or not. It serves the purpose.
Actresses Lou de Laâge and Agata Buzek in the main roles bring a sweet credibility to their characters and they slowly install a chemistry opposite Agata Kulesza (from Oscar nominated Ida – 2013) as the mother superior who puts a lot of strength in a difficult figure.
Fontaine is a bit overdoing it toward the end with over-dramatic music that was absent in the earlier part, which was okay since we can recognize drama when we see it. But at the end of the day she gets the emotion right. Her gentle and simple ways in crafting a delicate human drama simply works fine.
The Innocents is a beautiful drama.
*** Out in July in the US, the film is showing, starting August 19, at Cinema Du Parc.