Part horror film, part fairy-tale and pure allegory. Nothing in Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s 2004 film is as it seems. Much like her artistic partner, filmmaker Gaspar Noé, Hadzihalilovic is obviously interested in making films that push past expectations and delve into the unconscious mind. Innocence isn’t simply a film about what’s on the screen. It is a film that reflects what the audience chooses to see when they watch it. The movie takes place in the dream-like surroundings of a gated school for young women where imagery is much more important than story. Characters speak very little and what they do say is often less important than what they don’t say.
Throughout Innocence Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s direction is flawless and once you’ve entered the world she’s created it’s impossible to forget it. Much like Peter Weir’s excellent 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock, Innocence uses the sterile and beautiful world of a girl’s boarding school as a backdrop for exploring ideas about society, power, control and gender. How we respond to these films often illustrates the way in which we see the world. But there’s no denying that this is a film intended to shake up its audience and make them think. At times watching Innocence is an uncomfortable experience and it should make viewers squirm. It’s a horror film without shocks. It’s a fairy-tale for adults. This is anything but disposable entertainment. It will crawl under your skin and stick there.
Besides the unforgettable imagery found in the film, one of my favorite things about Innocence is the way Lucile Hadzihalilovic incorporated natural sounds into the soundtrack. In the opening and closing moments of the film the deep dark sound of rushing water seems to bubble up from your subconscious and signal to the audience that they’re watching something extraordinary. Water is often used to symbolize purity as well as fertility and Hadzihalilovic makes great use of water symbolism in her extraordinary film.
Modern Mondays is an ongoing project here at Cinebeats where I share a few thoughts or lengthy rants and raves about my favorite films produced during the last decade. Films previously mentioned on Modern Mondays include:
– The Left Bank (2008)
– Love Songs (2007)
– Bright Future (2003)
– Control (2007)
– The Quiet American (2001)
– A History of Violence (2005)
– This Is England (2007)
– Shaun of the Dead (2004)