The original title for Anne Fontaine’s THE INNOCENTS was Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God.The Holy Ovine who is supposed to take away the sins of the world, God’s gamboller who will grant peace and mitigate mercy.
The film is based on a true story, on events that occurred at the end of World War II. As the Nazi’s were withdrawing from Poland, the Russians advanced and occupied and pillaged Poland. Rape was considered a reward and Soviet soldiers were responsible for the insemination of several nuns.
The convent closed ranks, Mother Superior deciding to conceal the atrocities. Within cloisters, the baby bumps mature, and the physical and psychological effects fit to burst.
Now is the winter of this convent from whence a maid becomes a glorious summoner.
One nun, unable to to sit in silence while her sisters scream and squirm, writhing in physical and mental anguish, the not so blessed fruit of their wombs fracturing their faith and futures, seeks medical assistance from Mathilde, a young French doctor with the Red Cross.
She is brought to a convent where the abysmal abbess is more concerned with the disobedience of the subordinate wimple than the wounded and whimpering women whose wombs are about to deliver.
Piety trumps practicality, punishment trumps compassion. Faith and chastity unreconciled, Mathilde becomes their only hope.
As second in command nun, Maria, conﬁdes to Mathilde, holy orders is “twenty four hours of doubt for one minute of hope”.
Fontaine fashioned the script with Pascal Bonitzer who paired with her on her previous film, Gemma Bovery. Theirs is a writing partnership that has been fabulously fruitful and THE INNOCENTS is a carefully crafted merging of two worlds: the materialist world of Mathilde, a cosmopolitan communist doctor, and the spiritual world of the sisters.
Lou de Laage is both luminous and earthy as Mathilde and Agata Buzek is both grounded and ethereal as Sister Maria.
Agata Kulesza is absolutely awesome as the Abbess with no absence of malice, an abysmal aberration of the abhorrence of sin. She was also pack raped but rather than suffering pregnancy she succumbs to syphilis.
Her interior motives for her appalling actions are revealed in her profession to her peers, “I’ve damned myself to save you.”
THE INNOCENTS is a punishing and traumatising tale that lights a candle in the darkest places to restore faith, hope and charity in humanity, rising above religion, race and the abrogation of common decency.
THE INNOCENTS opens in cinemas this Thursday.
Sydney Arts Guide has ten double passes to give away to THE INNOCENTS. Please put GIVEWAY : THE INNOCENTS in the subject line and include your postal address in th body of the email.