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Slaughter of ‘The Innocents’

A woman’s view of devotion under pressure in Franco-Polish production

Sep. 6, 2016
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The choral singing under the Romanesque arches of a convent chapel invokes a peace that surpasses all understanding. And then the unworldly calm is broken by terrible screams from down the hall where one of the nuns lies painfully pregnant. Another sister sets out, the frosty ground crunching underfoot, to find a doctor.

Although set in Poland in the months after World War II, The Innocents shares something significant with a much different new film, Equity: a woman’s perspective. The Innocents’ director, Anne Fontaine, casts the doctor as a woman from a Communist family working in a short-lived French Red Cross mission in post-war Poland. She finds that seven of the nuns are pregnant, raped by occupying Soviet troops, and exceeds her responsibility (and faces danger) to help them.

Aside from the doctor’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, a resentful Jew with an understandably hostile attitude toward Polish Catholics, The Innocents’ main characters are women with varying experiences and sensibilities. Clichés are avoided. The nuns are depicted as individuals under their habits, many of them pushing against the barriers of their twisted mother superior.

Filmed in appropriately dim shades of winter, The Innocents is a beautifully acted story of the many ways devotion can be expressed in times of great trouble. The dialogue is in Polish and French with English subtitles.

 

The Innocents opens Dec. 9 at the Downer Theatre.

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