Saturday, November 24, 2012
Film Review: Innocence (2004)
If the lack of a comprehensible story doesn't offend you, there's a lot on offer in Innocence. The director, Lucile Hadzihalilovic, is a genius at creating an atmosphere that's both charming and deeply menacing. One minute you're wowed by a beautifully composed shot of young girls playing in a river or walking down a forest path at twilight, and the next moment you're gripped by a feeling of dread that something very sick and twisted is about to be revealed. Because we're left so in the dark about the whys and wherefores of this school our imagination runs amok, and various visual nudges help us imagine all kinds of terrible things going on behind the scenes. Without using any overtly alarming cues, Innocence manages to build up a lot of tension.
And now the big question: what the heck is this film about? There's no easy answer to that. Part of the pleasure of Innocence is that it throws out a dozen questions for every answer it provides. One thing does seem (relatively) clear: it's meant to be taken as an allegory about the mysteries of childhood as seen from a feminine perspective. When Iris (a six year-old?) arrives in a coffin and comes to life, as it were, I think it's meant to represent the birth of self-consciousness. What comes after that is an allegory of the uncertainties and mysteries young girls face as they move towards adolescence, and the way in which they're trained up in the roles society expects of their gender. But I'm only guessing. I recommend seeing this film with a friend. That way two things are guaranteed: you'll be entranced by the visuals and the two of you are certain to get into a testy argument over whether it was a great film or two hours of your life you'll never get back. But you can be sure that you'll probably never see another film like it.