• Golden Globe Awards

The Innocents (France)

Should this film remind you somewhat of Ida, a Golden Globe Award nominee from Poland, you would have some justification. Both stories take place in Poland in the presence of Soviet troops and in a convent for nuns. Also, the famous Polish actress Agata Kulesza is featured in both films.The Innocents got a positive response at the 2016 Sundance Film festival where it was shown under the original title Agnus Dei, The Innocents. This is not just another World War II film; it is told from an unmistakably feminine perspective. Perhaps the film owes its point of view and intensity to writer/director Anne Fontaine, who is also a well-known actress herself. As a director she has created great female characters in her other films such as the biopic of Coco Chanel Coco Before Chanel (2009), and her contemporary comedic take on French literary classic Gemma Bovery (2015). Fontaine with her co-writers Sabrina Karine, Pascal Bonitzer and Alice Vial creates a complicated war story based on an original idea by Philippe Maynial, the nephew of the real French Red Cross doctor Madeleine Pauliac, who was in Poland with the Red Cross Hospital after the end of the war. Mathilde, the main character of the film is based on her.It is 1945 Poland. Shootings and bombings in the country have stopped. But the Soviet Red Army units are still stationed in the country and some Soviet soldiers consider that as a victors and liberators they can do whatever they please – including pillage and rape. On that backdrop tragedy befalls a Benedictine convent, where the nuns try to keep their faith intact after the horrors of war invade their modest lives.  Mathilde (Lou de Laâge), a beautiful French Red Cross doctor is asked to make a house call to the Convent which is against Convent rules. Mathilde discovers that she has to help a pregnant nun who is giving birth to a child. To her surprise doctor learns that several more novice and not so young nuns are in various stages of pregnancy after being raped. Strong disciplinarian Mother Superior (Agata Kulesza) tries to stop medical assistance from Mathilde because she is afraid that if the information about rapes of nuns by Red Army soldiers is revealed it might jeopardize convent’s future under the country’s new Communist rule.Mathilde has no religious faith but she has a lot of compassion for the suffering nuns and decently tries not to hurt any religious feelings of her patients. But she has to deal with the strong feelings of shame overwhelming these innocent victims of war.Besides obvious parallels with the above mentioned Ida, the director,  Fontain was likely inspired by the early classic Polish films like Ashes and Diamonds and Kanał by recently departed director Andrzej Wajda and Mother Joan of the Angels by Polish director Jerzy Kavalerowitcz .