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A Riveting Experience
clg2386 June 2016
So gripping is this film that I didn't hear a sound from the audience--no talking, none of the usual rattle of bags of popcorn! While I would like to know now, now that I've seen the film, what parts of it are based on actual events, almost everything in the film seemed utterly true. This is not for film-goers who seek amusement, light entertainment, confirmation that the world is a just place. This could have been an unrelentingly grim film, because we see a great deal of the dark side of human nature. Instead, the characters have a wonderful complexity that allows us to empathize and hope. The themes are also rendered with complexity—we get to understand what initially seems incomprehensible. The acting is very fine, indeed. The landscapes are haunting. There is a lot of tension in the movie that provides forward momentum. We've seen many, many films set during World War II but rarely a film that deals with some of its consequences. This is one very worth seeing!
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Often bleak but also an uplifting experience
howard.schumann26 July 2016
According to military historian Antony Beevor, "The subject of the Red Army's mass rapes in Germany and elsewhere has been so repressed in Russia that even today veterans refuse to acknowledge what really happened." A Soviet war correspondent said, "It was an army of rapists," and that Russian soldiers raped every female from eight to eighty. The scale of the rapes that took place is suggested by the fact that about two million women in Europe had illegal abortions every year between 1945 and 1948.

Anne Fontaine's ("Coco Before Chanel"), The Innocents (aka Agnus Dei) tells one personal story of the brutality of the "liberating" Red Army from the point of view of a young French doctor, Mathilde (Lou de Laage, "Breathe") caring for French soldiers at a nearby Red Cross hospital. Based on real events, recounted in notes by Madeleine Pauliac, a Red Cross doctor, Mathilde secretly takes time from her hospital duties to serve as a midwife for nuns at a Benedictine convent in Poland in 1945 that have become pregnant as a result of several visits by Russian soldiers. As the film opens, Mathilde is begged by the novice Teresa (Eliza Rycembel, "Carte Blanche") to come to the convent immediately to deliver the child of Sister Zofia (Anna Próchniak, "Warsaw '44"), who is near death.

At first reluctant, the doctor is moved by the pleas of the novice and quietly goes to the convent where she performs a C-section to remove the breech baby and save Sister Zofia's life. Shortly afterwards, another nun, Sister Anna (Katarzyna Dabrowska, "Król zycia"), collapses and the truth is revealed to her that the nuns were subjected to the assaults by Russian soldiers who came to the convent on three separate occasions resulting in the pregnancy of six nuns and one novice. Giving assistance to the Abbess (Agata Kulesza, "Ida") and her young assistant Maria (Agata Buzek, "Redemption"), the French doctor is sworn to secrecy to prevent the nuns' pregnancy from becoming a blemish on the reputation of the convent.

The ordeal is a test for the nuns' religious faith who must deal with the fear that they will be punished by God for failing to live up to their vow of chastity and Mathilde comes to respect that many of the nuns uphold their beliefs, even though many believe that God has abandoned them. More reflective than others, Polish actress Buzek is remarkable as Maria, a complex nun who admits that being a nun in these circumstances feels like "twenty-four hours of doubt for one minute of hope." When Mathilde has her own close encounter with Russian soldiers who try to rape her at a roadblock, her bond with the nuns rises to a new level of empathy.

Though she was raised by Communist parents and is a non-believer, Mathilde develops a close relationship with the nuns and is moved by their devotional chants and returns to the convent each night to deliver the children of the remaining nuns. The Abbess tells Mathilde that the babies are taken to a sympathetic aunt but a deeper secret is hidden. A semi-love interest develops when Mathilde establishes a friendship with Jewish doctor Samuel (Vincent Macaigne, "Two Friends"), her medical supervisor who joins her at the convent to deliver the remaining babies and their engaging conversations are the film's only light note.

The Innocents is a heartbreaking film that portrays a community that is helpless in the face of brutality and whose resolve is tested to the breaking point when a death occurs in the convent and the question of the disposition of the newborn children takes us to an unexpected dark place. Lou de Laage is outstanding as the sensitive doctor whose compassion for others allows her to thrive in an uncomfortable situation and whose quick thinking saves the nuns from another encounter with the Russians. Her performance succeeds because she is also one of the innocents, those who are willing to give of themselves to others without standing in judgment.

One is reminded of the words of Mother Teresa who said, "If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway." Though it is shot in darker hues and is often bleak, The Innocents is also an uplifting experience.
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An overlooked gem
emailbillphillips12 October 2017
One of the best movies of the year 2016, IMHO!!! Didn't get a lot of mention at Awards time, but certainly as important as a political comment on a true story as, say, Spotlight. The Russians have gotten an easy pass in the movie business, compared to the likes of Nazi Germany and Racist United States which have been turned every way but loose as far as getting raked over the coals by cinema.

This quiet little story of Russian soldiers raping Polish nuns balances that trend in movies. Set after the war in 1945 as the Russians take over Poland, but the French Red Cross is still there, it's a reminder that there are always a few good people in the midst of the thugs. May the young French actress Lou de Laage have a long and happy career. She certainly has a good start here.

Besides excellent acting and story telling, maybe it's the filming and mood created by this movie that makes it so good. You would think it painful to watch considering the subject, but it's not. Great shots of snowy, muddy roads and rambling old trucks offset by warm glow of music in a candle lit bar. Then the nuns, in a bleak cold stone refuge, yet in spite of their hardship, they are full of heart and life.
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Terrific women's story
searchanddestroy-120 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Based on true events that occurred in Poland during post WW2 period, the tale of Sisters, nuns in a convent, where some of them were raped by Soviet soldiers and found themselves pregnant. So, a young French war nurse is called for help, to pull the confinements. You have here an outstanding and poignant story held by powerful performances. I sometimes thought of John Ford's SEVEN WOMEN, another pure female movie, a women's atmosphere where the bunch has to fight against the out world. I will insist on the Mother Superior character whose performance reminds me the Paul Scofield's one, in John Frankenheimer's THE TRAIN, where he was a cold iced, ruthless German officer, so deeply dedicated, at the extreme, to what he truly believed in. This female character here, as the convent directress, is the same kind of character. Terrific.

A powerful film that I highly recommend
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A Sensitive, Unsentimental Recounting of Terrible Violation
vsks26 July 2016
In case the 2013 movie Ida did not give you enough of a taste of the bleak Polish landscape post-World War II and the existential difficulties a young novice there may face, The Innocents gives a whole convent of them. The opening credits note the film is based on real events. These were documented by Madeleine Pauliac, a member of the French Resistance and a Red Cross doctor in charge of repatriating French soldiers scattered in camps and hospitals across Poland at the end of the war. Her nephew helped develop the movie, using her notes. French Director Anne Fontaine and a team of writers have brought to life this sensitive story of the aftermath of the country's "liberation" by the Soviet army. In the soldiers' point of view and with their commanders' encouragement, this meant enjoying the spoils of war. As a result, at least seven of the twenty or so Benedictine nuns in this isolated convent are pregnant. "What at first appears to be an austere, holy retreat from surrounding horrors is revealed to be a savagely violated sanctuary awash in fear, trauma and shame," says Stephen Holden in the New York Times. While the Sisters have taken vows to hide their bodies from the view and touch of others, when the babies start coming, life gets complicated. Childbirth is a terrifying physical, emotional, and most especially, spiritual crisis for the young nuns, who feel abandoned by God. Hearing her Sister's plaintive cries, a young novice runs to the nearby village in search of a doctor who is not Polish and not Russian. She finds an aid station staffed by the French Red Cross. Will the young doctor Mathilde (modeled on Pauliac in a stirring and subtle performance by Lou de Laâge) help? Will she be allowed to? What will become of these babies? Keeping the children would bring scandal down on the heads of the nuns, whose situation is precarious, given the post-war privations, the suppression of the Church by Poland's new Communist regime, and popular prejudice against illegitimate babies and unwed mothers, regardless of circumstances. They are sitting ducks. While you might be tempted to think of this movie as a period piece, wars with rape as a tactic continue today, with the young women victims often ostracized from their communities and families. The stern Mother Abbess (Agata Kulesza, also in the cast of Ida) swears Mathilde to secrecy about the births, but is quietly frantic they will be discovered. The Mother Abbess has her own probably fatal post-rape difficulty, but this is inconsequential compared to her fear for the loss of her soul. Acting as intermediary, Sister Maria (Agata Buzek), serves as translator, though the cultural divide remains almost unbridgeable. Says Christy Lemire in, Mathilde, the non-believer, is "a voice of reason in a place of sacred mystery." The fine acting in this movie helps it maintain a quiet dignity and lack of sentimentality about this whole ugly business. In French and Polish, with subtitles.
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A soulful essay about atrocities committed against nuns during war.
CineMuseFilms11 February 2017
Most war films recount history as if women were never involved or their experiences not worth mentioning. That is just one of many reasons why The Innocents (2016) stands out in the war film genre: it is about, for, and made by women. The result is a soulful essay about atrocities committed against a group of nuns during the second world war, portrayed as a complex metaphorical struggle between religious faith, medical science, and evil.

The linear plot line is as austere as the film's narrative. We meet a serene and devout convent of Benedictine nuns in Poland who go about their daily prayer with quiet conviction and meticulous adherence to ritual. The serenity is shattered by the scream of a nun about to give birth. One nun fetches a French Red Cross medical intern Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laáge) who sneaks out of the aid mission to help. She learns that Soviet soldiers had raped the nuns and several births were imminent. Mathilde is a non-believer yet is bewildered by the strength of the nun's faith and compelled to help. The nuns believe they are complicit in sin, and some are unable to even submit to medical examination while others do so with deep shame. The tension between sin and evil erupts when the baby is born and Mother Superior takes it out for fostering but instead leaves it in the forest. With more births coming, a convent full of babies cannot survive under Soviet occupation. It is Mathilde who finds an ingenious solution that ensures their survival.

Within this narrative arc, there are several strands that explore the nature and practice of faith by a group of women with varied backgrounds and different relationships with their god. Throughout the story, the tension between belief and logic creates a haunting presence. Young Mathilde struggles in a vortex of faith, science and evil, and comes to learn that there are no absolutes. The dystopia of war shatters all, yet faith survives in love and devotion to helping others. She grows emotionally with the experience just as the nun's learn tolerance of those who do not share their faith.

While the film has a strong cast of fine performers, it is Lou de Laage who shines brightly in a difficult role. She seamlessly traverses a wide emotional range from inspired awe to resolute determination to help, including restrained romantic explorations with a senior colleague. The portrait-like cinematography conveys the bleak landscape and convent solitude with a sympathetic lens that avoids despair. The film is a tribute not only to the violated nuns but to women of all nationalities mistreated at the hands of military forces. Rape in war continues in modern times, with many nations in denial and others struggling with unresolved shame. This is not an entertaining story, but a dark episode of history on which light has long been needed.
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About faith and morals in the post WW2 Poland
ayoreinf11 July 2016
That's why I go to film festivals, (mostly the Jerusalem Film Festival). For the opportunity of seeing such rare masterpieces. A perfect blend of acting - especially the three leads but there's not a single false note from any of the characters we get to see on screen; Cinematography; and story telling.

Lou de Laage, Agata Buzek and Agata Kulesza, are simply superb in their roles, but they are only the cherries on the top of one of the best ensemble works I've ever seen. The cinematography is breathtaking. And the story, it's more than a simple story about the horrors of war, and how it preys on the innocents. It's a story about the morals of faith. About believing in god's grace comes what may, as opposed to believing in the holiness of life. If you get a chance to see it, don't miss it - you won't regret it.
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The war was over, but not for the Polish nuns
Red-12513 September 2016
The French film Les innocentes was shown in the U.S. with the translated title The Innocents (2016). Anne Fontaine directed this powerful movie.

The year is 1945, just after the end of World War II. A French Red Cross unit is sent into Poland. Their mission was to care for French survivors of the camps. Among the Red Cross staff is a young medical student, Mathilde Beaulieu, played by Lou de Laâge. Early in the film, we learn a terrible secret about the nuns in a nearby convent. Many of them are pregnant, because they were raped by Russian soldiers. Mathilde learns of this, and she is allowed to enter the convent, where she meets Sister Maria, a French-speaking nun played by Agata Buzek. To go further with the plot would diminish the movie, so I'll stop at that point. Let me just say that the situation is even worse than it seems.

This is a movie that is not to be missed. Yes, it's grim, but postwar Poland was a grim place. The film takes place in winter, so snow covers everything, and even the Red Cross staff is miserable. Obviously, for the nuns in the convent, everything is much more terrible.

The acting in the film by the two lead actors is outstanding. Also, the ensemble acting was wonderful. There were no weak links, and no obviously staged scenes. Everything looked real--cold, dark, and threatening--but real.

This is one of those movies where many frames could be lifted from the film and used as a photograph. My compliments to cinematographer Caroline Champetier, who did a brilliant job.

We saw this film at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. It will work well enough on the small screen, but the large screen gives you a better sense of the isolation of the convent. The nuns don't expect help from outside. They only expect harm to come to them. Mathilde is the exception, and they (and we) understand that. Small screen or large screen, don't miss this movie!

P.S. The film is based on the experiences of a French doctor--Madeleine Jeanne Marie Pauliac. She was a member of the French Resistance, and did, indeed work tirelessly in Poland after the war. For artistic reasons, director Fontaine focused on Dr. Pauliac's work with the pregnant nuns. The rest of her accomplishments would also make a fascinating movie.
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When the house of peace was disturbed!
Reno-Rangan14 July 2017
From the director Anne Fontaine. Like any of her works, this is another top class women oriented film. But it was partially based on the incredible true story. Partial means, no one knows what was the actual event. The director and her writers inspired by the diary the French doctor who worked for Red Cross in Poland at the end of the World War II, who wrote down her experience on it. So, with the small-small facts the story was built on for the film. Well done job by the cast and crew.

Whenever you hear the word/abbreviation 'WWII', it always bound with nazi Germans. Since this tale takes place just after the war, when the Soviet took over the Poland from them, it is set to reveal one of the extremely hidden secrets. Just imagine how secret it is, like you have read many books and have seen many films regarding the WWII, but you have never heard about this, until now. It is a heart rending tale, but the thing is everything's about the aftermath, how they handled their state of condition.

Mathilde, the French doctor is fetched by a nun from the nearby convent is shocked when she reached there to see most of them are in the final stage of their pregnancy. They were sexually abused by the Soviet soldiers, but now she as to keep it quiet as requested by the mother superior. She's being an atheist and to whom she's treating, the believers, is exactly the opposite kind. But not just her, the nuns as well put aside their differences to overcome their situation.

❝For us nuns, the end of the war does not mean the end of fear.❞

It's right on the coldest winter, does not tell about the original violence, but there's still a few incidents about the army atrocities, how they treated innocent nuns, even the Red Cross members. But remember nothing was the actual depiction. It would have been even better if it was a documentary film. Doing some research and telling us the tale, reading exactly as what was written in the diary. But the film was not bad, except the scene to scene, event to event it was very slow to move, except right on the point.

The story has a twist, but it was not like very powerful. It depends on how you would consider it. Because for me, I felt it was too cruel, hard to take on. The story about church people means, you would expect a gentle kind. Or even in such situation, as in this film, to react as much as possibly generously as what they're known for. But in the first place, it was no ones fault. They all fighting for the same reason, especially keeping the outside world in mind, each one reacted differently. So it is understandable, but not all the acts were respectable.

As the director said in her interview, this is a period film, but pretty much the same in the contemporary world where war is on. The violence against the innocent women. So it is a debatable topic. And if it was directed by some male filmmaker, he might have risked with the violences in the flashback scenes to bring more depth in the narration. The present film is kind of compromises on that, but still not easy to watch everything it shows. Particularly for the families. Great performances by all. One of the best films on this theme and of the year. The film is not to be ignored. Despite not about the war, but just like 'Under Sandet', about the following event.

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This Film Puts Hollywood To Shame, It Captures the Essence Of Great Film Making
ewleeds25 June 2018
Close your eyes and think about the film Wuthering Heights, try to remember Olivier as Heathcliffe, the Yorkshire Moors swept with rain, fog and snow, and the forbidding house whose young master bullied Heathcliffe away and add Cathy's great performance. This film "The Innocents" captures the Spirit of Wuthering Heights in a post wartime Polish Monastery setting, this film portrays the liberation of Poland from the Nazis, who were supplanted by the vodka, vulgar and volva Russians, who raped the Nuns in this monastery causing several to become pregnant and bitterly ashamed of what had occurred, so much so that they shunned outside help, hid behind closed doors and walls, surrounded by the legacy of a wartime Poland ( Polish saying: Lifes bitter lessons I recall, I seem to remember them all) Aid arrives in the form of a French Doctor working locally for the French Red Cross, who solves their pressing problems. The Sound of Music this film ain't, its storyline is more powerful, more moving and another triumph for the French Film industry. A great film, a wonderful moving film, and a lesson in film making to all.
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Anne Fontaine's Finest Hour
writers_reign11 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
With seventeen writing and sixteen directing credits on her CV it's fair to say that Anne Fontaine has paid her dues and knows how films are put together; I've seen and enjoyed perhaps a dozen of these but I have no hesitation in saying that The Innocents surpasses anything she has done by a country mile; all I can say is that this is Fontaine's Citizen Kane and in my book that's another way of saying the best there is. It's one of an increasing number of films set in and/or either side of World War Two based on actual incidents, Katyn is another, for example, but it would be wrong to assume that this was sufficient to guarantee success. For that we have to look to the creative term or, to put it another way you can deliver a ton of Carera marble to a sculptor but it's up to the sculptor to fashion it into something outstanding or something mediocre. Fontaine, given her marble and enlisting the aid of three outstanding actresses - Lou de Laage, Agata Buzek and Agata Kulesza - fashioned it into a masterpiece. The plot has been described else where: 1945, Poland. Lou de Laage is working with the French Red Cross. A nun solicits her help, she turns her away. A little later she sees the same nun, on her knees in the snow praying desperately for heavenly intervention. Breaking the rules of her contract she 'borrows' an ambulance and accompanies the nun to the convent where she finds a woman about to give birth. The Abbess, Agata Lulesza, explains that they have taken the girl in out of pity but rejects any help. Another nun, Agata Buzek, speaks French and persuades the Abbess to accept the help of the French doctor. So begins a bonding between the French doctor and the Polish nun. The first revelation is that Russian soldiers visited the convent three times leaving seven nuns pregnant. Later the doctor discovers the Abbess has syphilis. There is, if possible, a final revelation even more horrific than the en masse raping of seven nuns. Shot in colour but muted to resemble black and white, in a bleak Polish winter with virtually no music Fontaine holds the attention effortlessly and has surely coaxed Award winning performances out of the three leads or else there is no justice in the world yet every single performance is A +. The highest praise is not good enough for this film.
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Where Faith Ends
GManfred6 July 2016
I do not believe you will ever come across more offbeat subject matter than that found in "The Innocents". A French Red Cross nurse is asked to help a convent of Polish nuns, most of whom have been raped by Russian troops, and many have become pregnant. She finds she is not welcome by the Mother Superior, who believes it is the will of God - Providence, she says, and that somehow God will resolve their dilemma. Since they are nuns no one may see or touch their bodies as they are handmaidens of The Lord.

The actors are marvelous and convey the prevailing feelings of incomprehension and guilt that permeates the convent. They feel they are to blame for the fate that has befallen them. Although they are pliable the Abbess is not, and here is the crux of the problem; the dichotomy of thought between young and old, modern (as of 1945) and traditional. "The Innocents" is an excellent character study and is ultimately a 'women's picture'. It is filmed in color but feels like a black-and-white picture. So starkly obvious is the solution that I struggled to accept the prevailing sentiments of the nuns, with which I found myself at odds. As such, I found it not as compelling as some other reviewers did.
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Quite good!
fil-nik0917 September 2016
Initially I gave this film a rating ten, but now I think it is worth nine. Nevertheless, the film is very good.

What I liked the best is the setting and the mood of the film. It is quite dark, quite cold ( set in the winter which somehow give something chilly to the already chilly and horrible story) and quite claustophobic ( if I may say that - since the most of the film is done inside a monastery and rooms/cells inside it).

The story is gripping and powerful. You can not really stay 'untouched' by the tragedies that the sisters have undergone. And although the scenes were not shown when it happened to them - the scene where it almost happened to the nurse was enough to get the glimpse of what must have been like.

The actors were all great - sisters and the nurse especially. I had a bit of a trouble to 'get into' the main doctor's character. I understand French and his way of speaking and making sentences was quite quite strange. But I guess it is meant to be like that.

I also liked it was a mix of Polish and French. I know French and Polish is similar in some ways to Serbian so it was also nice to compare some words.

I do recommend this film. Though must say that winter time would be more suitable for watching it ( to really get into the atmosphere).
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Riveting and Painbful
billmarsano4 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Poland, immediately after WWII: a high-stress French Red Cross unit is working MASH-style, to treat and evacuate numerous wounded French soldiers. A desperate Polish nun asks for help, but by rule the corpsmen can treat only French and only military, yet by luck the nun persuades a your French nurse to break the rule and go to the convent. There she finds that the emergency this: a nun is about to give birth, and with no more help than her sisters' whispered prayers. The subsequent revelations are all convincing and all horrible, especially because they nuns have just barely survived both German and Russian armies,and their cloistered order is extremely backward. This riveting and beautifully filmed story is said to be based on fact. That always makes me want to know more than the 'based on' part. 'Facts are stubborn things,' as John Adams said, to which I add that filmmakers are malleable. They have to make the facts into a story. In this case I felt the wind-up of the story was a high-fructose invention—pat, glib, convenient. Excellent nevertheless.
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A compelling story undermined by bad writing
peter-stead-740-48696315 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I attended this as part of the BFI season. Festivals always give films extra love, I've noticed, and this is certainly a worthy story, about the fallout of war, in particular told through the story of the aftermath of mass rapes at a convent in Poland.

That this packs almost no emotional punch is down almost solely to the writing. In this genre, rounded characters who develop and use of moral dilemma are key and both were noticeably absent here. What we are left with is simply a historical reenactment.

Mathilde is the French Red Cross worker who comes to the aid of the nuns to help them give birth to the babies that are the product of the rapes. Her bind is to keep this - and therefore the nature of her aid to the nuns - secret. This is where I feel moral dilemma as a device could have been used more, because her work at the red cross is equally as important and humanitarian and this begins to suffer - but the writing never lets you in on the series of personal revelations Mathilde would have gone through toward the realisation that helping the nuns takes precedence for her. You therefore get no sense of a character arc and this is embodied by the curiously vacant performance of Lou de Lâage. However, its really the script which does not help her.

The nuns themselves are not really characters, but two different sets of qualities. The older ones are stoic and taciturn and the younger ones are justifiably innocent and scared. You never get to understand who they are and there is a strange lack of religious context. There is the questioning of faith and God's will, of course. But the world of the Bible, its characters and lessons are their whole universe. How do they view what happened to them? Through the prism of Mary Magdalene? Through Jesus? Through the Book of Job? Their philophising seems to come from an authorial, rather than a character, voice. For a film which evokes this world much more clearly, I really recommend Doubt.

There is some very sloppy direction. Early on Mathilde is told off during an operation because of a lack of attentiveness. The doctor yanks down his mask to speak to her. How come he can do this? Is the mask not necessary after all? Why wear it in the first place? Failures of detail here really take me out of a scene.

The acting is generally very good and there is some beautiful cinematography. But the writing is lazy and in places so is the direction. For me, this was a missed opportunity to tell a compelling story.
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jessewriter22 January 2019
Well done with great acting and writing. Great scenery. Bleak and realistic, based on a true story, which makes it even bleaker.
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Miseries of the war
esteban174714 January 2019
Plot recalling real events of the post-war Poland in 1945. While this country, especially the Jewish population, was cruelly treated by the Nazi hordes, the liberation was not rose-colored. The Russian liberators have historically not been welcome on Polish lands. Many battles in the past took place between both countries. The Red Army suffered an extremely merciless war on the part of its adversaries. You have to be in the skin of those people to judge them, but still there are things that are intolerable, and the savagery has no justification. The rest you can imagine, when troops are occupying a nunnery, the soldiers' actions and the contradictions of nuns following the gospels. The film shows the negative side of both sides in this situation. French actress Lou de Laâge plays excellently the role of assistant of the French Red Cross in Poland, seconded by Polish actresses Agata Buzek, Agata Kulesza among others as nuns, and the Parisian Vincent Macaigne as Red Cross physician.
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foutainoflife28 November 2018
Pregnant nuns. A reality when the world is at war and some lose their sense of humanity, respect and the common decency in the treatment of others. This is a film that looks into how these nuns had to face the abuses they suffered at the hands of others, how they were to cope with the consequences of said abuse and the religious ideology they hold so dear.

The acting, filming and the seriousness of this were all done well. It manages to catch your attention and never gives the viewer the opportunity to look away. I'm glad I took the time to watch it.
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Two very confronting feminine roles: the martyr and Marianne.
gustavo-hernandez24 July 2016
The frequent attention that WWII and its consequent problems has received on cinema is suffocating. Les Innocent, however, is one film that goes further, beyond the French Occupation, the megalomaniac character of the first half of 20th century political leaders, the dramatic tales of the Jews, the destruction and radicalism based on nationalisms, and so on. This time is all about a silent, intimate and confronting story developed in a polish convent. The role of woman in the war society has a special attention this time, from two different perspectives: the new free women that can decide her own destiny and find its best metaphor in the French Marianne; the second one, the centenary image of the catholic sacred women, the virgin.

These two characters, which embody very well some of the tensions that were deliberated during the world war period, find a perfect justification this time on the dialogues, silences and actions. The polish has been a traditional segregated population and, somehow, this nation has found its historical version on the figure of the European martyr. So, we have an intense, but predictable, argument between these two evocations of a women. Marianne is obviously characterized by a French woman, who is always willing to attend others, who finds its better version on a nurse. Her conflicts end up always with a condescending gesture. She is made to represent the good between an ocean of evil, but with the French usual hostility.

But the spectator loses its distance from the world context very easily, because of the intimate voice of the film. The virginal victims are in the middle of a complex scenario, in which violence is expressed on every little action. But this portray of the WWII has a common place that we, the occidental spectators, are very used to. The evil soviets, closer to madness than ever before, carriers of a voluptuous and dark behaviour. At this point, the idea is well exposed: Marianne rescues and supports the oppressed nations, the martyrs, by the horrible and destructive hands of Stalin. One more time, we see the same stereotype on the screen.

Nevertheless, it is important to say that beyond this argumentative political line, which is subtly exposed, there are very rich elements that make of this one a remarkable film. Not because of the predictable approach it has, but because of the portray of a very moving case which is worthy to be seen. The photography stablishes a constant dialogue with the interior dramas of the nuns. The sound has a very powerful role, which is complemented with the excellent acting skills of the women. It is poetical when it demands to be.
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The European trauma and its PTSS
Dr_Coulardeau27 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
An extremely disquieting and disturbing film at first that turns pacified and pacifying in the end.

Imagine Poland in 1945 liberated by the Soviet Union but practically occupied BY THE Soviet army, waiting for some Polish government to come into power. Imagine a nunnery, a convent in other words, with nuns being searched by rough Soviet soldiers who search everything particularly the nuns and not with their fingers, mind you, and these rough visitors leave seven of them pregnant and one with syphilis (the abbess). Imagine a mission of the French Red Cross there, under the command of a Colonel who used to be an extreme right militant before the war, with a Jewish doctor, the last survivor of his family, and his assistant, a young woman from a communist family.

The woman and then the man get involved in the situation in the convent in spite of the abbess who is a fundamentalist and imposes rules from another time: the nuns are not supposed to show their body and be touched physically, even by a female doctor. The rapes are a stain, a sin and the nuns are made to feel guilty about it: the trauma of the rape is turned into an inescapable practically unhealable form of psychotic PTSS. Seven children will be born. The first two will be taken by the abbess and she will – in absolute secret – entrust them back to God, in other words expose them in order for them to die. She commits a crime that is also a sin (Thou shalt not kill) in order to cover the situation. She is discovered as a murderess by the other nuns in time for the last five children to be born and saved by one younger nun who is the actual caretaker of the convent and who can count on the help of the French communist lady doctor.

The end is optimistic. The convent is turned into an orphanage. They host orphans living or surviving in the street and that covers up the fact that the babies are the children of rape.

If the end is maybe too optimistic the film shows very well what happened in Poland from 1943 to 1946. The Soviet army was ruthless as soon as it moved west pushing the Germans back. It took absolutely no prisoners among the German troops, which I know from experience due to the testimony of my mother-in-law whose first husband was a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht on the Polish front in 1944. At the same time they got rid – or let the Germans get rid – of the Jews from the ghetto in Warsaw. In the meantime they trapped the remnants of some Polish liberation army and managed to have them all shot in some forest east and they respected no rights of no Pole. Looting, pillaging and raping were the little brothers and sisters of the big siblings WAR and NO QUARTER. Supreme Lord have mercy on us. We have to think of Led Zeppelin's song:

Close the door, put out the light. You know they won't be home tonight. The snow falls hard and don't you know? The winds of Thor are blowing cold. They're wearing steel that's bright and true They carry news that must get through.

They choose the path where no-one goes.

They hold no quarter.

Walking side by side with death, The devil mocks their every step The snow drives back the foot that's slow, The dogs of doom are howling more They carry news that must get through, To build a dream for me and you

They choose the path where no-one goes.

They hold no quarter. They ask no quarter. The pain, the pain without quarter. They ask no quarter. The dogs of doom are howling more!

And out of that carnage and mess a government will come up under the leadership of the Polish United Workers' Party, in other words a quasi communist party, supported by the Soviet Union and this government will tolerate and let live the Catholic Church and its institutions, including convents and monastery. So the happy ending might be considered as possible. But the whole of Europe went through the worst imaginable traumatic experience in those years, which is still surviving today in the European consciousness and culture.

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billcr125 July 2018
Based on a true story, this 1945 WW II drama is a very dark look at humanity. A French Red Cross medical worker is in Poland at a hospital for wounded soldiers. She is drafted by a nun to help at a nearby convent. Several of the nuns were impregnated by Russian soldiers. They are mostly innocent young virgins looking to serve God. I am a retired Catholic, and so I will leave my distaste for religious authority at the door here. The saving grace, pardon the expression, is an ending which at least gives a small measure of hope for the human race, regardless of religious affiliation or outlook. One of the best foreign films of the year.
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Another Post-WWII nun drama from Poland
paul-allaer3 September 2016
"The Innocents" (2016 release from Poland; 115 min.) brings the story "based on actual events" we are reminded at the beginning of the movie, of a convent for nuns in Poland, not long after the end of WWII. As the movie opens, the nuns are singing their Latin chants, as we hear a piercing scream in the background. It;s not long before one of the nuns convinces Mathilde, a woman at the French Red Cross to come with her for help. We see a woman, highly pregnant, and Mathilde performs an emergency caesarean> As it turns out, the Russian soldiers have done unspeakable things to the nuns. What will become of the convent? and the pregnant nuns? and Mathilde? To tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the latest film from French director Anne Fontaine, who most recently brought us the engaging "Gemma Bovery" and some years before that "Coco Before Chanel". Here she tackles a tough subject matter, namely what is a convent of about 25-30 nuns to do when, raped by Russian soldiers, a number of them become pregnant. (In the movie's end credits I picked up that the film is inspired by the French woman Madeleine Pauliac's Red Cross missions in Poland. The movie's script is from a nephew of Pauliac,) Fontaine thankfully decides to keep things somber and the movie almost feels like it's shot in black and white. Beware: there were a number of scenes that I had to cover my eyes, literally. How this movie is rated PG-13, instead of R, is a mystery to me. The role of Mathilde is played by up-and-coming French actress Lou de Laâge. Surely we have not seen the last of her. The performances from the nuns are equally up to par, but at times it's tough to keep track of whom is who, as they frankly all pretty much look alike, resulting from the way they are dressed. The movie was shot on location in Poland. Two years ago Poland brought us another outstanding post WWII nun drama called "Ida". "The Innocents" readily reminded of "Ida", although I think "Ida" was still a little better (it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language movie, if I recall).

"The Innocents" finally opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this weekend, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended nicely. I had expected it to be a packed house, but that was not the case, to my surprise. At the same time, it's not like you will walk away from "The Innocents" saying, well, that was a jolly good time!". "The Innocents" is not that type of movie. If on the other hand you are in the mood for a top notch foreign drama that deals with some very tough issues (and happens the be based on real-life events), then I would readily suggest you check out "The Innocents", be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "The Innocents" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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War tragedy
patil_umesh13 January 2017
This film is based on true events in Poland. After the end of World War II in 1945, many polish nuns in catholic convent became pregnant one after the other. This revealed that these women were physically abused and raped by Russian army. During that time a communist French nurse,Madeleine Pauliac working for Red Cross came to treat wounded Russian soldiers look after these women. The lady doctor performs a noble task beyond her duty to reduce labour pain, help during them child birth. She secretly visits convent to treat patient nuns, provide medicines,and save many babies. She took risk of her life and from being fired from her job for treating enemy.

Nuns had chosen to remain celibate,but become victim of rape and lose virginity. Lead sister in convent tried to keep this secret to avoid their condemnation and dismissal from society. Few babies were sent to their relatives, few were sent to adaptation house. One baby was left abandoned over snow-capped hill to let somebody own it.

This movie is excellent art. Visuals, colour schemes are stunning. Costumes of nuns, their paths of celibacy,devotion towards Jesus, sermons recited by them are spiritually blissful. Suffering and outcry of women during childbirth is heartbreaking.

Women were looked only as an instrument of sexual gratification, while they were performing exhausting task in cooking, cleaning and other households. This film indirectly raises questions upon inhuman behavior by during war. This film reminded me an Oscar winning film, Ida, based upon nun who chose to devote herself to god.
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disgusting sentence
waleckijan12 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
To Mrs Anne Fontaine (as finally responsible for what is said in the movie). In the one third of the movie when Mathilde (the beautiful) and French Jewish doctor Samuel played by Vincent Macaigne are in bed.She is asking him about Poles. His answer is: " They got what they deserved with Russians and the Germans"This is disgusting and unacceptable sentence if you care for the facts.I am requesting Mrs Anne Fontaine that this sentence will be taken out of the movie. Thank you Sincerely Jan Walecki I am waiting for prompt answer.Thank you
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The Horrors of Liberated Postwar Poland
marsanobill17 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Poland, immediately after WWII: a highly stressed French Red Cross unit isworking MASH-style to treat and evacuate numerous wounded French soldiers when a desperate Polish nun asks for emergency help. By rule the corpsmen can treat only French military, but by luck and by example the nun moves a young French nurse to break that rule. At the convent she finds that the emergency is that a nun is about to give birth, and with no more help than her sisters' whispered prayers. The subsequent revelations are all convincing and all horrible, especially because the nuns have had to survive--just barely--both the German invaders and their Russian liberators. A.k.a. rapists. This riveting and beautifully filmed story is said to be based on fact. That always makes me want to know more than the 'based on' part. 'Facts are stubborn things,' as John Adams said, to which I add that filmmakers are malleable. They have to make the facts into a story. In this case I felt the wind-up of the story was a high-fructose invention—pat, glib, convenient. Excellent nevertheless.
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