World War II globally shook us to our core. Enemies against enemies, countries against countries, humans against humans. The devastation it caused rippled heavily and still ebbs in our souls today: polarised humanity tearing into one another for power, greed, and hate. The causes, the aftermath, the acts are horror stories that we must teach before we plunge ourselves into greater acts of warfare.
What’s barely touched upon is the fall out after the allies one the war. With so many countries in ruin, people often lump all the evil to the Nazis and Germany. But on a hell bent crusade for vengeance, soldiers ravaging innocent citizens because their countries leaders forced them into war. Rape, pillaging, and torture: These all ran rampant.
The Innocents looks at the most horrific aftermath of the Second World War.
Anne Fontaine’s brand new movie revolves around a French doctor, Mathilde, helping the Red Cross with World War II survivors. She is rallied into a nearby convent where several nuns are pregnant after being assaulted by Soviet soldiers. Bending against their faith following the tragedy and struggling with pregnancy, Mathilde must find a way to help but finds her own faith shaken, especially when male rule and rigid religious practise restrict her from helping everyone afflicted.
Fontaine, most famed for her fashion house biopic Coco Before Chanel, directs a riveting, stirring, and poetically painful film. Framing the emotionally brutal movie in a stunning way, Fontaine never allows the sublime era-based aesthetic to take away from the story at the centre. Impressively, she astutely and quietly excavates the pain in a truly compelling way.
At the forefront of her work are impeccable actresses who tend to a multitude of visceral emotions, each as breath-taking as the last. Of course, leading the charge as nurse Mathilde is Lou De Laage who, while dismissive at first, becomes pivotal to helping the nuns and their situation whilst tackling her own struggles too. It’s an apt and abundantly filled with excellence.
On a base level, Fontaine’s works as a studied exploration of religion and faith in the face of war and tragic circumstances. Women who uphold their duty despite rape and brutality coming down on them will have you questioning the reasons for their faith yet admiring their resilience and strength to carry on.
Yet underneath this, admittedly incredible, narrative is providence of womanhood, battered by misogyny surrounding her. Mathilde and the nuns she tends to are torn asunder physically and psychology by the men in power, belittling and torturing them until they submit is orchestrated greatly by the women behind and in front of the camera. This isn’t the “aren’t men awful?” rhetoric either. The women never give up, never give in, and storm forward together. It’s about them and their determination to wade through trauma, coming out of it the best way.
Tremendous acting and forceful directing, The Innocents is a sublime vignette on the evils and miracles placed within the palms of humanity. Never forget, however, that these terrible acts had happened to citizens stuck with the aftermath of war and these are the stories you never hear in your text book: Violence at the hands of your saviours. Terrific, beautiful, earnest, and efficacious, Fontaine’s The Innocents is commanding work.
The Innocents is out 11th November