The Innocents (2016 film)

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The Innocents
Les Innocentes.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Anne Fontaine
Produced by Éric Altmayer
Nicolas Altmayer
Philippe Carcassonne
Written by Sabrina B. Karine
Pascal Bonitzer
Anne Fontaine
Alice Vial
Based on an original concept
by Philippe Maynial
Starring Lou de Laâge
Agata Kulesza
Agata Buzek
Vincent Macaigne
Music by Grégoire Hetzel
Cinematography Caroline Champetier
Edited by Annette Dutertre
Production
company
Aeroplan Film
France 2 Cinéma
Mandarin Cinéma
Mars Films
Scope Pictures
Distributed by Mars Distribution (France)
Release date
  • 26 January 2016 (2016-01-26) (Sundance)
  • 10 February 2016 (2016-02-10) (France)
Running time
115 minutes
Country France
Poland
Belgium
Language French
Polish
Dutch
Russian
Budget $6.4 million
Box office $7.4 million[1]

The Innocents (French: Les Innocentes), also known as Agnus Dei, is a 2016 French film directed by Anne Fontaine, which features Lou de Laâge, Agata Kulesza, Agata Buzek and Vincent Macaigne in its cast.[2][3] The script is by Sabrina B. Karine, Pascal Bonitzer, Anne Fontaine and Alice Vial, after an original idea by Philippe Maynial.[4] Maynial took inspiration from the experiences of his aunt, the French Red Cross doctor Madeleine Pauliac, in Poland after World War II, dealing with the aftermath of mass rapes by Soviet soldiers.[5]

Plot[edit]

In Warsaw, December 1945, a nun known as Sister Maria approaches a young French female student doctor, Mathilde Beaulieu, serving with an army unit to say there are sick women in need. Sister Maria does not accept her referral to the Red Cross.

Beaulieu decides to go at night to the nun's convent where one of them has given birth. The Mother Superior tells her that the nun was thrown out by her family and was taken in out of charity, and Beaulieu tells the Mother Superior (Abbess) that she works for the Red Cross.

A novice nun at the convent is grieving the death of another nun. Confined to her cell, she engages in morning prayer.

Later the Abbess discloses to the doctor that several nuns at the convent were raped by Russian soldiers, relating that the experience was nightmarish, and they wish to keep this a secret. Seven of the nuns are pregnant. Some of the pregnant nuns are reluctant to be examined intimately by the doctor, believing this will violate their vow of chastity. One of the nuns confesses to Mother Superior that her faith has been deeply shaken by these events.

Soldiers come to the convent believing the nuns are harboring an enemy soldier. However, the doctor convinces them she is there to deal with an emergency outbreak of typhus. The Mother Superior is badly shaken by this, and thanks the doctor for her presence of mind. The doctor realizes she too was raped. The Master of Novices tells the doctor that every day she is reminded of these harsh events. She relates how faith has become more difficult for her but it is the cross she bears.

When the doctor returns, her boss chastises her for having been away without leave, stating that the military is a place of order and discipline.

At a later visit at the convent, another novice nun gives birth unexpectedly. This nun had not realized she was pregnant, and even now does not seem to know she has given birth. The Abbess had given orders that she be notified of all births, but Beaulieu requests that she not be notified immediately, in order to focus on care for the child. A different nun, Sister Zofia, takes responsibility for the child, Beaulieu asks the Master of Novices if she ever regrets her life as a nun. The novice replies "Faith is 24 hours of doubt with one minute of hope", going on to describe her difficulties with the practice.

The doctor returns to the army medical unit, and discovers the unit is going to be transferred out of the area. Her head trusts they will all be happy.

Multiple nuns are about to give birth at once. The doctor returns to the convent with a male Jewish colleague. She assures the nuns that he will keep their secret. The doctor visits the baby whose existence has been kept secret from the Abbess. The Master of Novices plans to take the baby to the Zofia's family, but the baby is discovered by the abbess. The Abbess is upset that she was lied to and tells the Master of Novices that she has been corrupted by "that French woman" who has brought scandal and disorder to the convent. The Master of Novices replies "Forgive me, but scandal and disorder were already here". The Mother Superior has been telling everyone that she takes the babies to families that have agreed to adopt, but takes this baby and abandons it in front of a crucifix on a country walking path, after baptising it. Zofia is distraught, knowing the child is mysteriously missing. The Mother Superior privately prays that she have the courage to continue on the path she has chosen. Meanwhile, Sister Zofia commits suicide by jumping from an upper ledge, dying shortly after her wounded body is discovered.

When the Maria goes to Zofia's family to report her death, she discovers that Zofia's mother never knew Zofia had a child, nor has been caring for the baby. Maria decides to not tell the mother the truth. This is the Maria's first realization that the Abbess has been dishonest about the fate of the babies. She confronts the Abbess demanding the truth. She says she entrusted the child to God saying "Don't you believe in Providence?"

At the medical base, the doctor is getting ready to finally leave the area. The Master of Novices has brought a new baby to the medical base to protect it from the Abbess. The doctor first notices that many orphans living on the street have been helping personnel at the base from time to time. It occurs to her that the nuns could start raising many of these, opening an orphanage, thus avoiding questions about where the babies are coming from. One of the nuns decides to leave the convent and raise her own child, and another decides to leave but allow her baby to be raised by the nuns.

The final scene is three months later, with a photographer at the convent taking pictures of the nuns and happy orphans.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film is a French-Polish-Belgian co-production that was supported by the Polish Film Institute and the Film Commission Poland.[6] Principal photography began on 13 January 2015 in the Warmia region in Poland, and lasted for seven weeks.[7] The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016.[8] In some countries the film is titled Agnus Dei (Latin for "God's lamb").

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 93%, based on 89 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Innocents isn't always easy to watch, but its nuanced exploration of complex themes -- and its refreshing perspective -- are well worth the effort."[9] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score from 1 to 100 with respect to reviews from mainstream critics, reports a score of 78 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews ".[10]

Accolades[edit]

Award / Film Festival Category Recipients and nominees Result
César Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Director Anne Fontaine Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Sabrina B. Karine, Alice Vial, Pascal Bonitzer and Anne Fontaine Nominated
Best Cinematography Caroline Champetier Nominated
Norwegian International Film Festival Andreas Award Won
Provincetown International Film Festival Audience Award Won
Valladolid International Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=intl&id=theinnocents.htm
  2. ^ Stephen Holden (2016-06-30). "Review: In 'The Innocents,' Not Even Nuns Are Spared War Horrors". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-07-13. 
  3. ^ Kenneth Turan (2016-06-30). "'The Innocents' strikingly tells of what befell a convent victimized during WWII". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-07-13. 
  4. ^ Noémie Luciani (2016-02-09). "Les Innocentes: face au viol, l'arme de la foi". Le Monde. Retrieved 2016-07-13. 
  5. ^ Julien Pellicier (2016-02-15). "Cinéma: l'héroïne du film "Les Innocentes" est originaire de Villeneuve-sur-Lot". Sud-Ouest. Retrieved 2016-07-13. 
  6. ^ "Films Distribution Boards Anne Fontaine's 'Agnus Dei' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. 21 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "Shoot due to kick off soon for Anne Fontaine's Agnus Dei". Cineuropa. 7 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "The Complete 2016 Sundance Film Festival Lineup". Indiewire. 8 December 2015. 
  9. ^ "The Innocents (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  10. ^ "The Innocents Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 

External links[edit]