The subtext is rich and could concern any number of issues; fascism, slavery, repression, conformity or a combination of them all. Innocence is a stunningly visual film with haunting images that call to mind Kubrick and Malick – tracking shots, lush natural setting; youth tainted or saved?
The film starts with a series of static, what looks to be POV shots of a forest, then underground walkways, all leading to a interior where a group of girls open a casket, revealing a younger girl, who awakens and joins the crew. All wear different color ribbons in their hair, marking their age. With the emergence of another child, the colors are all passed down one, the now youngest Iris, obtaining the red. We find out that the girls live in an fenced off park, five different houses of girls under the watchful eye of a few older women teachers. The adults seem to be training the girls for something, sending off the older one’s when ready to the outside world.
Many questions follow, where the hell are these girls?, are they being held against their will?, is it in the future or past? This ambiguity produces some dazzling stretches of tense panic. Some girls start to question their place in this society, choosing action instead of pacification. Some, trusting, naive, and loyal, seem to be playing into the hand that feeds them, whomever “he” is, either by choice/comfort or because of fear. I have my own thoughts on the “why’s” concerning the outside forces, but I think it’s better for you to see for yourself.
Innocence offers countless stunning scenes, a collection of great performances, and a subtle attention to mise-en-scene which allows the viewer to detect patterns, nuances, and horrors within an environment of relative calmness. Too bad first time director Hadzihalilovic (who worked on many of Gaspar Noe’s films) chooses to show way too much of the outside world at the end of the film. These final moments destroy some of the established suspense, putting a face to the unseen tormentor we always knew held the puppet strings. In this case, less is more, and for most of the film we get to feel as innocent as the girls laying in wait. Scary stuff.